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A kite flier needs 
a kite runner


Did the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples, Fernando Cardinal Filoni, really expect some official response from Beijing to his almost impassioned appeal for a reopening of dialogue between Beijing and the Holy See, or was he just flying a kite? (Sunday Examiner, November 4).

In an open letter published on October 22, he seeks to dispel what are seen as stumbling blocks for the Church in China, when he says, “The Church in China is not asking for privileges, nor does it intend to put itself in the place of the state… On the other hand, the Church happily offers its own contribution for the common good.”

He also expresses a sense of personal frustration, saying that the sense of hope in a more open and productive future, which he built up during his years in Hong Kong in the 1990s and early 2000s, have evaporated.

However, Cardinal Filoni seems to be expressing a deeper frustration. As members of the diplomatic corps in Rome have pointed out in recent days, the problem the Church faces on a diplomatic level in China is that it does not know who to approach in terms of reopening a dialogue.

Beijing has maintained a stony silence, as the cardinal points out in his plea to Beijing, since Pope Benedict XVI forwarded it a copy of the June 2007 letter he penned to the Catholic people of China.

The Vatican official notes in his appeal that the pope is still waiting for some official reaction five years down the track.

However, the Vatican is not the only state expressing frustration over China’s stonewalling diplomatic tactics.

The recently concluded summit of ASEAN nations in Phnom Penh also has the United States of America, The Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Vietnam chafing at the bit in their efforts to bring the giant nation to dialogue at the international table rather than chase bilateral negotiations.

The president of The Philippines, Noynoy Aquino, put it succinctly, when he denied that the unity among the 10 nations of ASEAN proclaimed by China and Cambodia existed at all.

The Holy See is an important player in the world of international dialogue, especially in terms of religious freedom, democracy and governance, sustainable development, ethical economic growth, food security, health, climate change, rule of law and protection of cultural and religious traditions.

In presenting his credentials to Pope Benedict on November 5, the new Australian ambassador to the Holy See, John McCarthy, described it as a highly influential body in promoting understanding between faith communities, which he said is significant in promoting a global culture of peace and cooperation.

This includes encouragement of patriotic citizenship, pride in nation and love of culture and, as Cardinal Filoni points out, does not represent a hidden political agenda, but rather a desire to contribute to peace and cooperation among people.

But by withholding even a squeak in response to Cardinal Filoni’s kite, Beijing also seems to be barricading itself against the international influence of the Catholic Church and, in the absence of a kite-runner to follow the flight of the cardinal’s words, the question can be asked if this is simply a snub to the Holy See or part of an across-the-board rejection of dialogue as a way of doing business. JiM