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Criticism of bishop saga 'unfounded'
(China Daily)
Updated: 2006-05-08 05:29

China yesterday expressed regret over the Vatican's criticism of its ordination of two Catholic bishops, saying the accusations were "unfounded."

"The Vatican's criticism of the Chinese Catholic churches was unfounded and disregarded history and reality," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao.

On Thursday, the Vatican's spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls criticized China for ordaining two Catholic bishops and threatened to punish the bishops and believers who participated in the process.

Liu said the Chinese Government pursued "consistent" and "clear" principles in dealing with China-Vatican relations.

The Vatican must terminate its "diplomatic links" with Taiwan, and it should not interfere in China's internal affairs, including any intervention under the pretext of religious affairs, said Liu.

"The Chinese Government has always been sincere and has made unremitting efforts in improving its ties with the Vatican," the spokesman said.

China is willing to start constructive dialogue with the Vatican and improve China-Vatican relations, Liu said.

A spokesman for the State Administration of Religious Affairs on Saturday defended the ordination of the two bishops, saying the Vatican's criticism of China "makes no sense."

The spokesman said the Chinese Government had recently informed the Vatican about ordaining bishops in some Chinese dioceses, but had not received a straightforward response.

"On the contrary, the Vatican made unfounded charges after the successful ordination, a move that ran against the remarks of the Vatican hoping to improve its relationship with China," he noted.

"The remark by Navarro-Valls makes no sense," the Chinese spokesman said, noting that the selection and ordination of bishops by Catholic churches in China had lasted for half a century.

"The selection and ordination of bishops in China are a need of Chinese Catholic churches to conduct normal church activities," he said.

China now has 97 dioceses, but more than 40 of them do not have bishops. In addition, most of the bishops are old.

"The churches could not exist without bishops," the spokesman said.

The development of Catholicism in China called for the self-selection and ordination of bishops, he said, citing an incident in 1958.

In that year, a list of bishop nominees from some Chinese dioceses was submitted to the Vatican, which not only rejected the list but also threatened to mete out "extraordinary punishment."

"The move deeply hurt Chinese believers and forced the Chinese Catholic churches to set off for a road of selecting and ordaining their own bishops," the spokesman said.

Over the past decades, Chinese Catholic churches have selected and ordained more than 170 bishops who have made historic contributions to gospel spreading in China, he said.

Official statistics show that there are more than 5 million Catholic believers in China, as compared to 2.7 million half a century ago.

Also on Saturday, the Catholic Patriotic Association of China and Chinese Catholic Bishops College issued a statement, saying that the selection and ordination of the bishops fully reflected the wishes of priests and believers and strictly followed Catholic traditions.

"Those bishops have solid faith and moral integrity," the statement said.

"They are outstanding in theological achievement, personal morality and work capability. They have won extensive support and love from priests and believers."

Differences remain between China and the Vatican on the ordination of bishops. The Chinese Government has proposed that the Vatican on put aside the differences in a practical manner, said the spokesman for the State Administration of Religious Affairs.

"We hope the Vatican stops interfering in China's internal affairs, respects the common wish of Chinese Catholic churches and believers, and sets no more obstacles which affect China-Vatican relations," he said.


(China Daily 05/08/2006 page1)


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