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Ah, well that went over well

China decries Vatican invite

China, which bans its Catholics from recognising the Pope, has turned down a Vatican invitation to four Chinese bishops to go to Rome, saying it showed no respect.

Beijing has not had diplomatic ties with the Vatican since 1951, two years after the Communist takeover in China, and insists that relations cannot be resumed unless Rome severs links with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own.

The four bishops invited to Rome were on a list of prelates from around the world that the Pope had named to be members of next month’s synod, the Vatican said on Thursday.


"The act (invitation) goes against the original good intention of the Pope and shows no respect for China’s 5 million Catholics, bishops, the Chinese Catholic Bishops College and the China Patriotic Catholic Association and for the decision-making power of the two Chinese Catholic groups," a spokesman for the two groups was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying in a report late on Saturday.

The China Patriotic Catholic Association is the state-backed Catholic church. Catholics who recognize the Vatican are forced to worship underground.

"If the Holy See has deep sincerity to improve China-Vatican relations, we hope they take real actions, rather than put up new barriers," the spokesman said.

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posted September 10, 2005 at 10:59 pm

First blush? Sounds like the Vatican took a step toward reconciliation, and the Red Chinese overlords blanched. And flinched.

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posted September 10, 2005 at 11:35 pm

I think it was a non-starter from the beginning, and kind of strange.
Consider two countires with no diplomatic relations and a number of centuries of botched relations (the Popes and their representatives have been making blunders in China for centuries).
Suddently the head of country A invites four politically sensitive, mid-level guys to a meeting. Fat chance.
It would be like Fidel Castro inviting a town mayors from cities in Ohio, Montana, Vermont and Georgia to come to a meeting in Havana.
Totally short circuits normal diplomat protocols.
Of course the answer is, “No thank you.”

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posted September 11, 2005 at 2:20 am

No, it’s like Bush asking the mayor of Havana. You got the proportions twisted.

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Samuel J. Howard

posted September 11, 2005 at 2:35 am

Actually, the mayor from VT would probably go…

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posted September 11, 2005 at 9:02 am

I would think that a “barrier” would prevent Chinese bishops from visiting the Holy See.
Maybe something is getting lost in translation.
Totally short circuits normal diplomat protocols.
How is that? Normal protocol is that Pope says to bishop, “You come here,” and the bishop comes.

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posted September 11, 2005 at 12:50 pm

I don’t remember the Church clearing with the State Department before inviting over American bishops….

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posted September 11, 2005 at 3:19 pm

Hmm. Seems Rome’s coddling of the schismatic, heretical Chinese “official church” in the consecrations a few weeks ago didn’t work after all. Go figure!

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reluctant penitent

posted September 11, 2005 at 10:18 pm

Zhou says:
‘no diplomatic relations and a number of centuries of botched relations (the Popes and their representatives have been making blunders in China for centuries)’
Zhou, do you honestly think that the main problem in Vatican-China relations to day is blunders made by ‘Popes and their representatives’? So if things had been fine before Mao they would be fine today? You don’t think that it just might have something to do with the fact that China is run by a tyrannical murderous regime?

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reluctant penitent

posted September 11, 2005 at 10:21 pm

And if Zhou’s diagnosis of the current situation is correct, why does the Vatican not have problems with Taiwan? Shouldn’t they also be put off by the blunders made my ‘Popes and their representatives’ allegedly made in the past?

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posted September 12, 2005 at 10:37 am

A few further comments, in case anyone is still reading this thread…
dcs wrote, “Normal protocol is that Pope says to bishop, ‘You come here,’ and the bishop comes.”
Not quite. Last time I checked, Pope usually “invites,” and mere bishops must travel across international borders using a passport from their country of citizenship (unlike Cardinals who have Vatican passports), and obtain visas, etc. To use the Cuba example again, if the Pope was in Havana and asked said to some American bisohps, “You come here,” well, the U.S. Government would not be appreciative of such actions. (Recall that Pope John Paul II did visit Cuba.) The current position of the US State Department is:

Attention: U.S. citizens need a U.S. Treasury Department license in order to engage in any transactions related to travel to and within Cuba (this includes the use of U.S. currency). Before planning any travel to Cuba, U.S. citizens should contact the Licensing Division, Office of Foreign Assets Control, U.S. Department of Treasury.

No exceptions there for US bishops responding to a Pope in Havana. A mere bishop trying to travel across international borders without proper documents and permission of his country of citizenship and other countries where he would be is rather foolish. The Church hierarchy does not transcend the secular order of nations in these matters of border crossings.
For RP: I’m not saying that the current conflict between China and the Vatican is due to blunders such as Pope Clement XI’s decree on Chinese Rites (1715). Of course not. But there is a history of errors in relations between Rome and China. It is usually the “front line,” the missionaries and Chinese Christians who actually live in China with Chinese, working with the local government, who make the most progress for the Gospel there, not those making decrees and invitations from Rome.
Don’t forget that while Pope John Paul II was living in Poland, under a communist government, he worked with the government there until 1978. From his bio in the Observer:

His appointment as cardinal in 1967 was welcomed by the communist Polish government who saw him as a useful moderate. He continued quiet, subtly subversive activities such as ordaining priests to work underground in Czechoslovakia, without angering the authorities.

Pope John Paul II knew how to work with communist authorities so that the light of the Gospel could shine forth, scattering the darkness of oppressive governments.

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posted September 12, 2005 at 10:45 am

Here is the latest from

ANSA) – Beijing, September 12 – An attempt by the Vatican to prod China into dialogue and possibly better relations appears to have backfired .
Four Chinese Catholic bishops have been banned from attending a synod in the Vatican to which they had been invited by Pope Benedict XVI .
On top of that, the official Chinese Catholic Church has accused the Vatican of showing it “no respect” by issuing the invitations without consulting it first .
The events indicated that recent signs of gradually improving relations between the Vatican and Beijing, who have had no diplomatic relations since 1951, might have been given too much emphasis .
Benedict XVI last week included four Chinese bishops among the 36 he publicly invited to take part in a synod in the Vatican in October. Two of the bishops were from the underground Catholic Church in China, which responds to Rome, and two were members of the so-called Patriotic Catholic Church, which pledges ultimate allegiance to the Chinese government .
The move was widely seen as an invitation to the Chinese government to show its readiness for dialogue by allowing the bishops to come. It would have been the first time Beijing had allowed bishops from either the official or unofficial church to come to Rome .
But this weekend the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics, which represents China’s five million ‘legal’ Catholics, said the bishops would not be coming and it voiced irritation that the invitations should have been made public .
“It shows an absolute lack of respect for the five million Catholics and for the Patriotic Association of Chinese Catholics,” it said .
“If the Holy See sincerely wishes to improve relations between the Vatican and China, we hope that concrete steps will be taken and no new barriers erected.” Some sections of the Chinese press criticised the Vatican on Monday for having published the list of invited bishops before having contacted Beijing .
“This goes against the good intentions expressed by the pope previously,” said New China news agency, referring to Benedict’s recent remarks indicating a desire to establish proper relations with countries such as China .
It had appeared that the Vatican and China, whose underground Catholic Church is believed to have some eight million members, were slowly overcoming differences .
The last two bishops appointed by the Chinese government for the Patriotic Church were later recognised by the Vatican. Many bishops in the Patriotic Church are reportedly eager to convince their government that it has nothing to fear from their spiritual allegiance to Rome, should it be allowed one day .
Analysts said the decision to invite bishops from both ‘legal’ and underground churches showed that the Vatican now views the situation in China as that of a single, albeit divided, Catholic Church.

And from

Rome (AsiaNews) – An unidentified spokesman of the Patriotic Association (P.A.) and the College of Chinese Bishops expressed their “displeasure” for the invitation extended by Benedict XVI to 4 Chinese bishops. Recently the Pope published a list of people appointed as members of the Synod of the Eucharist. Among these are Monsignor Aloysius Jin Luxian (Shanghai), Msgr Anthony Li Duan (Xian), Msgr Luke Li Jingfeng (Fengxiang), Msgr Joseph Wei Jingyi (Qiqihar). The first three are recognized by the Chinese government, the latter is part of the unofficial (underground) Church.
The unidentified spokesperson said that the Vatican’s public announcement, “shows no respect for the 5 million Catholics in China, their bishops, the college of bishops and the Patriotic Association, and for the decision-making processes of these two entities.”
This spokesperson also adds that, initially, the two groups “thought” that the invitation was “a good sign for the normalization of relations between China and Vatican,” in “recognizing the College of Bishops and the Patriotic Association.” The unidentified spokesman concluded that, given the faltering health of some of the bishops invited, and given the diplomatic relations that exist between the Vatican and Taiwan, the bishops will not be able to go to Rome.
News which has reached AsiaNews from China over the last few days does not coincide with the statements of this mysterious spokesperson. To begin with, Catholics and bishops are pleased by the invitation and think – as we were told by Msgr Jin Luxian of Shanghai – that it is an honour for the Church and for China. Furthermore, the 5 million official Catholics and the 8 million underground are celebrating the appointments and have decided to pray, fast and recite novenas so that the government gives its permission to the 4 prelates.
Our impression is that the last word has not yet been said on the four bishops’ invitation to Rome. A Chinese Catholic told AsiaNews that “if the government wants to send the bishops to Rome, no Patriotic Association can stop them.”
The last word in fact belongs to President Hu Jintao and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. One factor that is still a source of some hope is what appears to be a certain detachment from the normal practices of the Patriotic Association in government decisions. The naming of the auxiliary bishops of Shanghai and Xian came about with the tacit agreement between the Vatican and the government, without going through the Patriotic Association. In fact, with the Stalinist and Cultural Revolution mentality of its executives, the Patriotic Association is, at this point, creating more problems than solutions for Chinese Catholics. In many regions, there is enough tension between the Patriotic Association executives and the faithful, both underground and official, to jeopardize the project for a “harmonious society” close to the people that Hu Jintao has been pursuing.
For this reason, it is still possible that the government will detach itself from the statement of the Patriotic Association’s spokesperson, and take a groundbreaking and far-sighted decision.
The statements of the anonymous spokesperson seem to simply indicate a certain irritation for having been left out of the picture at such an important for China and the Universal Church.

It is possible that at this time the negative response is coming from the open Chinese Catholic hierarchy, and that the secular government has not yet made a decision.
Also, the very public invitation of these four bishops could perhaps be stirring some feelings of jealousy in other bishops not invited. Bishops are human.

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