China-Vatican relations take clearer shape

Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/5 23:08:41

Western media outlets have been intensively covering progress in Sino-Vatican negotiations, with Pope Francis making substantive concessions to China on bishop appointments. "A framework accord between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops is ready and could be signed in a few months in what would be an historic breakthrough in relations," Reuters reported.

The Taiwan authority appears alarmed at the news. Speculations on the establishment of China-Vatican diplomatic ties have started to spread. Western media and certain radical religious groups opposed to enhanced Sino-Vatican ties are anxious to influence ensuing Beijing-Holy See negotiations. This suggests that at least the Taiwan administration and some Westerners truly believe that the establishment of Sino-Vatican diplomatic relations is on the cards.

The Vatican is the only "ally" to Taiwan in Europe, and, given the Holy See's special appeal, it would be a heavy blow to the Democratic Progressive Party if the Vatican severed ties with Taiwan.

The maintenance of Taiwan-Vatican ties is a result of the disputes in Sino-Vatican negotiations of recent years. Taiwan is clear about its insignificance to the Vatican, and thus worried that it may be eventually abandoned.

Some Western media outlets and a few radical religious groups who have no right to intervene in bishop appointments, are also quite unhappy about the Holy See trying to settle its dispute with Beijing.

The Beijing-Vatican deal, if clinched, would be tremendously beneficial to Catholics. As a result of changes in secular political patterns, disputes are inevitable in the history of religion, and may evolve into religious splits in many circumstances. The Holy See reached a consensus with Vietnam on bishop appointment and an agreement with China on the issue would reflect Catholics' ability to adapt to changes. People who sympathize with Catholics have no reason to feel antipathy.

Beijing is patient in its negotiations with the Vatican, sticking to principle while managing differences. Despite the difficult process, China's vast numbers of non-Catholics have never been strongly against the Vatican. The Chinese public generally respects each Pope.

The Taiwan question isn't Beijing's top concern in handling its relations with the Vatican as the mainland has many tools to pressure Taiwan. Taiwanese media and pro-independence forces speculate that Beijing is eager to normalize ties with the Vatican to deal a blow to Taiwan leader Tsai Ing-wen's authority. They are overestimating her weight in overall mainland strategy.

Beijing and the Vatican will establish diplomatic relations sooner or later. We believe Beijing's diplomats can manage the negotiations well, taking account of the national interest and the religious beliefs of Catholics.

Pope Francis has a positive image with the Chinese public. It is expected he will push China-Vatican ties forward and solve related problems with his wisdom.

Posted in: EDITORIAL

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