Welcome thaw in relations between China and the Vatican

PUBLISHED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 1:39pm
UPDATED : Friday, 19 August, 2016, 11:29pm

Recent news stories have revealed that authorities in Beijing and delegates from the Vatican are moving towards some improvement in Sino-Vatican relations (“Beijing, Vatican reach initial accord on appointment of bishops”, August 5). This is good news, since 60 years of estrangement is too long.

Both sides will benefit from normal, healthy arrangements. China will benefit by joining all the other nations who work with the Holy See on issues such as peace, refugee problems and religious harmony. Chinese civil society will benefit by having a more integrated Catholic hierarchy to serve the people of China in charitable, educational and medical fields. Chinese Catholics will benefit, too, by eliminating the division between state-approved churches and the so-called underground churches.

Of course, any rapprochement will be opposed by hardliners on both sides. Ultranationalists will stir up memories of past conflicts involving foreign missionaries and their nations’ actions in China. Traditionalists will opposes any change that undercuts their positions. But we know that wise leaders are able to choose what’s good for their country.

One favourable aspect is the good example that Hong Kong provides to Beijing in this matter. Our religious bodies have contributed greatly to Hong Kong’s peace and prosperity, while still maintaining contacts with outside churches. Both Protestant and Catholic believers of differing nationalities have shown loyalty to Hong Kong and devotion to our welfare. The many graduates of local faith-based schools can attest to the quality of their education and the help which religious ideals have afforded to their lives. This experience can be repeated in China once bureaucratic obstacles are removed.

It is still true, though, that communism and religion have very different world views and ethical systems. But any joint effort to end meaningless conflict and work for a nation’s improvement deserves support. Let bygones be bygones! Xenophobia, prejudice and imported ideologies are the straitjackets of idiots.

John Geitner, Sham Shui Po