Religion in China

State-run Chinese paper confident Beijing will establish ties with Vatican

Tabloid published by Communist Party mouthpiece People’s Daily says it is inevitable diplomatic relations will be resumed nearly 70 years after they were severed

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 12:58pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 06 February, 2018, 9:56pm

Beijing and the Vatican will establish formal diplomatic relations sooner or later because Pope Francis has the “wisdom” to resolve problems between the two sides, a state-run Chinese newspaper said on Tuesday.

A framework accord between the Vatican and Beijing on the appointment of bishops was ready and could be signed in a few months in what would be a historic breakthrough in relations, a senior Vatican source said last week.

An even partial resolution of the thorny issue of who gets to appoint bishops could open the way for a resumption of diplomatic relations nearly 70 years after they were cut.

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Beijing has so far said little about the talks.

However, the widely read tabloid the Global Times said a deal between Beijing and the Vatican would be “tremendously beneficial to Catholics”.

“Despite the difficult process, China’s vast numbers of non-Catholics have never been strongly against the Vatican. The Chinese public generally respects each Pope,” it said in an editorial in its Chinese and English-language editions.

“Beijing and the Vatican will establish diplomatic relations sooner or later … Pope Francis has a positive image with the Chinese public. It is expected he will push China-Vatican ties forward and solve related problems with his wisdom,” it said.

The newspaper is published by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily, but, unlike its sister publication, does not speak for the party or the government.

The moves have not been without controversy in the church.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, 86, the outspoken former bishop of Hong Kong, caused a stir with a Facebook post last week that was highly critical of the Vatican’s recent overtures to Beijing.

Another source of friction with Beijing is the Vatican’s maintenance of official ties with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing sees as a wayward province to be taken back by force if necessary.

Vatican move to make way for Beijing-backed bishops raises flags for Taipei

“The Taiwan question isn’t Beijing’s top concern in handling its relations with the Vatican as the mainland has many tools to pressure Taiwan,” it said.

The Vatican is Taipei’s sole remaining European diplomatic ally. Beijing has been ramping up the pressure on Taiwan since Tsai Ing-wen of the independence-leaning Democratic Progressive Party won presidential elections in 2016.