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