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Vatican and China Beijing meeting confirmed

HONG KONG (UCAN): A second round of China-Vatican talks has been held in Beijing, the Hong Kong-based Catholic news agency, UCAN, has been informed.

It reported that the meeting was held amidst a tightening of the screws on religious freedom in China, as the central government has been upping the ante on its Sinicisation of Religion in China policy, which observers say seeks to limit, if not entirely eliminate, all influence on religions from outside the country.

Reports have emerged from Sichuan province that government religious officials are demanding that priests submit a written explanation of their personal understanding of what the Sinicisation policy means and elaborate on how they see it relating to the Catholic Church.

Against this backdrop the Vatican delegates to the bilateral meeting arrived in Beijing on October 11.

Several sources reported that the meetings have already concluded and the Vatican delegation has left China.

No information was available on what was divulged, who was involved in the meeting or what was discussed.

It is believed that most probably the meeting was attended by representatives from the Chinese and Vatican diplomatic corps, together with the State Administration for Religious Affairs.

The Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, did attend talks held in China prior to 2009, when he was the Vatican deputy foreign minister.

UCAN reported that its informant said, “I don’t know the exact personnel that were involved, but it is likely (they came) from the section two offices, which are responsible for Christian Churches’ affairs.”

An important factor in the backdrop to the meeting is that it was convened shortly after an article was published in the Zhongguo Mingzu Bao, a state newspaper carrying religious and ethnic news, on October 8.

The article pointed out that all religious affairs in China should be handled locally by the Chinese themselves and that there is no need for any foreign involvement in the life, practice or development of religion on the mainland.

The article stressed that the state should manage the administrative boundaries of dioceses.

However, this, along with the appointment of bishops, is one of the hot potato issues in Vatican-Beijing relations.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI acknowledged in a letter to Chinese Catholics that the Vatican was prepared to address the ecclesiastical boundaries issue with government authorities.

In September this year, Pope Francis told reporters that talks on relations between the Vatican and China are moving forward.


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