Church meeting hurt trust, Vatican says

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 December, 2010, 12:00am

The Vatican has sharply condemned a meeting of senior members of China's government-backed church held last week, citing violations of religious freedom and human rights.

A Vatican statement yesterday said the 'unacceptable and hostile acts' have damaged the dialogue and 'climate of trust' between the Holy See and the Beijing government.

At the eighth national congress of Catholics held last week, Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin - from Kunming diocese in Yunnan province, who was ordained by Beijing without papal approval in 2006 - was selected as president of the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference.

At the same time, Bishop Johan Fang Xingyao of the Linyi diocese in Shandong - who is a Vatican-approved bishop - was selected to lead the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The association was denounced by the Holy See in 2007 as being incompatible with church doctrine.

For months, the Vatican warned mainland bishops against attending the congress, which is seen as a breach of church doctrine.

However, in yesterday's statement, the Vatican acknowledged many bishops and priests were forced to take part in the meeting. The Vatican asked Catholics to understand the pressures experienced by their pastors and pray for them.

The Vatican slammed China for its 'repressive attitude' toward religious freedom.

'The ... desire to control the most intimate areas of citizens' lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic Church does no credit to China,' the Vatican said. 'It seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength, of intransigent intolerance rather than of openness to freedom.'

Communist China forced its Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951. Only state-backed churches are recognised, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.