CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 February 2018

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Vatican laments confusion and controversy over Church in China

HONG KONG (SE): Greg Burke, the director of the Holy See Press Office, has denied recent allegations of the Vatican selling out the Catholic Church in China in a statement published on Zenit.org on January 30.
 
The Vatican spokesperson denounced the widespread news of a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China.
 
A report on AsiaNews.it said that a Vatican delegation had asked a bishop from the unofficial Church to resign and another to accept demotion (Sunday Examiner, January 28). The delegation wanted excommunicated government-backed bishops to replace them. Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, confirmed the news was accurate and later supplemented it with an open letter posted on his Facebook page and his blog.
 
Considering the sensitivity of the issue, world media channels such as The Guardian and The New York Times picked up the story fast and many Catholic portals were giving analyses and speculation. 
 
In his statement, Burke said, “The pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention.” 
 
He lamented, “It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy.” 
 
On his Facebook page, Cardinal Zen wrote that Pope Francis offered words of consolation to the unofficial Church in China during a private audience in January. 
 
Despite the reassurance, the cardinal was not optimistic: “Do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.” 
 
In many parts of China, the unofficial and official Church communities have been reconciled since a 2007 letter from Pope Benedict to Beijing, with episcopal appointments agreed upon by the Vatican and Beijing’s Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. However, in some areas the rift still persists.
 
Observers describe the recent developments as an extraordinary effort by the Vatican to advance negotiations to restore ties with Beijing. 
 
Chen Tsung-ming, a research director at the Ferdinand Verbiest Institute in Belgium, was of the opinion that “the Vatican wants a breakthrough.” 
 
He went on to add that, “If they can solve, little by little, the problem of the illegal and the underground bishops, then it may help create a model of negotiation.”

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