CHINA / National

'No timetable for diplomatic ties with Vatican'
By Teddy Ng (HK Edition)
Updated: 2006-05-11 10:15

China does not have a timetable for forging diplomatic ties with the Vatican, Commissioner of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Hong Kong Lu Xinhua said Wednesday.

But negotiation channels remain smooth and unimpeded, Lu said while addressing his first news briefing in Hong Kong since his appointment in February.

Lu was speaking just days after the Vatican criticized China's ordination of two Catholic bishops without the endorsement of Pope Benedict.

The commissioner reiterated China's long-lasting stance towards a normal relationship with Vatican: the latter must sever ties with Taiwan, persist in the one-China policy and should not interfere in China's internal affairs.

Earlier, the Foreign Ministry regretted the Vatican's criticism of the ordinations, saying it was unfounded.

Last week, spokesman for the Vatican Joaquin Navarro-Valls had said bishops Ma Yinglin of Yunnan and Liu Xinhong of Anhui had been ordained without the Pope's "consent", and threatened to excommunicate the clerics involved.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, too, had said that the ordination would hinder Sino-Vatican ties.

Lu said he understood the differences between China and the Vatican. But Beijing has been on its own in the selection and ordination of bishops since the founding of the People's Republic of China, he explained.

During the past decades, Chinese Catholic churches have selected and ordained more than 170 bishops and they have contributed a great deal to the spread of the Gospel, Lu told the media.

The number of Catholics in the country too has increased from 2.7 million half a century ago to 5 million.

But "we will not abandon the principle of establishing ties with the Vatican," Lu said. "Of course, we will take into account all kinds of possibilities in the negotiation process."

The Chinese mainland has 97 dioceses, but more than 40 of them do not have bishops and some of them are ageing.

Talks to establish diplomatic ties with the Vatican have been going on for years and were smooth, the commissioner said.

Suggestions for Cardinal Zen

Lu said he understood Zen's desire to play a role in the establishment of Sino-Vatican relations because he was a Hong Kong resident and belonged to the church.

Lu, however, offered suggestions to Cardinal Zen. "First, Zen should understand correctly and comprehensively the central government's policies on the establishment of Sino-Vatican relations. Second, he should unmistakably convey our messages and policies to the Vatican.

"And Zen should try to convince the Vatican to respect and accept China's stance on the issue."


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