Putting the facts straight on Vatican matters

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 25 January, 2000, 12:00am

I refer to Shiu Sin-por's article, 'Vatican should be more patient' (South China Morning Post, January 20). Finally someone has acknowledged the fact that 'the obstacle is not the Vatican's recognition of the Taiwanese Government'. The Vatican has already shown 30 years of patience, since the Vatican downgraded Taiwan's diplomatic status to the lowest possible level, to give a signal to Beijing of its desire and willingness to engage in dialogue.

However, I take exception to a few points made by Mr Shiu.

Taiwan has seven dioceses and none of them has changed its name, as Mr Shiu writes. The name change was that of the Bishops' Conference in order to distinguish it from the Bishops' Conference in the mainland.

Also contrary to Mr Shiu's opinion, the Protestants have not enjoyed greater freedom than Catholics. They, like the Catholics or even more so, have been the targets of persecution. In fact, the number of Protestants associated with House Churches, and thereby illegal, is considerably greater than the number of Catholics in the underground church.

The matter of the appointment of bishops has often come under fire from political sources in various countries in the past. This was clearly unacceptable and an abuse of power with the interference of politics in religion. If today 160 countries around the world freely accept the Pope's authority to appoint bishops, why cannot China follow suit? It is not accurate to say, as Mr Shiu maintains, that in the case of Vietnam, the Pope's authority was diluted. The fact is that the two parties came to an agreement which demonstrates goodwill on both sides.

Would it be too much to ask Mr Shiu to give a specific incident in which the Vatican, in 150 years of foreign intervention in China, played a significant role? May I also add here that in terms of Venice, Mr Shiu is off by several centuries? It is not advisable to write about matters without sufficient knowledge, or at least without carefully doing one's homework! BETTY ANN MAHEU Ho Man Tin