As the Vatican and Beijing come closer, Pope Francis must keep the faith of China’s ‘underground’ Catholics
Rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing would be a political boon for both sides (“Catholics torn between hope and ‘betrayal’”, March 30).
However, the Holy See is not just a political entity. It is also the religious authority for over a billion people.
Unifying the Catholic Church in the world’s most populous country would enhance the Vatican’s influence and prestige. But Pope Francis must also keep the faith of China’s “underground” Catholics, who have always looked towards Rome.
Clearly, both sides will have to compromise. Beijing could put the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association on the table, by shifting it into the Pope’s orbit – or by eliminating it all together.
The price would be Beijing’s input on – or even veto over – the appointment of bishops.
However, should the rapprochement succeed, not all Chinese Catholics would follow the Vatican’s lead. And, as your article notes, a sense of betrayal may linger.
Catholic traditionalists would welcome their Chinese brethren who choose to remain underground. In particular, the arguments of the Sedevacantists, who claim that there has been no valid pope since Pope Pius XII died in 1958, would find fertile ground.
After all, it was during Pius’ reign that the Vatican and Beijing first split – partly due to his refusal to countenance lay control of the bishoprics. As one schism closes in China, another may yet emerge.
Jack Wright Nelson, Sai Ying Pun