VATICAN CITY (RNS) China has reacted cautiously to a bid by Pope Francis to open new dialogue with Beijing, with some officials quick to warn the Vatican not to “interfere” with the country’s religion.
On his return flight from a five-day tour of South Korea, Francis said he was ready to go to China — “For sure! Tomorrow!” — after receiving a positive response to two goodwill telegrams he sent to President Xi Jinping as the pope flew over Chinese airspace.
“We respect the Chinese people,” Francis told journalists on the return flight Monday (Aug. 18). “The church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work.”
That is still a huge challenge, as the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with China since 1951. The Catholic Church in China is divided between an “official” church known as the Catholic Patriotic Association, answerable to the Communist Party, and an underground church that swears allegiance to Rome.
The state-run Catholic Patriotic Association was quick to respond to the pope’s overtures for greater dialogue, albeit with a warning.
“China will always safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and it never allows foreign forces to interfere with religion. The Vatican should respect China in terms of the personnel of a diocese,” Liu Yuanlong, vice president of the association, told the state-run Global Times in a report also published in English.
Go here to read the rest. Religion is exploding in China. The Chinese government is officially Communist, a substitute religion that virtually no one believes in, including the officials of the government. The Chinese bureaucrats fear religion because they are unable to control it, and it is one of many uncontrollable forces in China that will probably bring about a change in government in the next decade. Public protests in China increased from some 8300 in 1993 to between 180,000-230,000 in 2010. China is about to boil over, and the Chinese government has no idea what to do except to keep the lid on. As with a pot that is boiling, that is a long term dangerous proposition. Change, radical change, is coming to the Middle Kingdom and the rulers of China need to face up to that. The only question is whether the change will be peaceful or violent. Pope Francis could help the powers that be in China embark on a path of peaceful change, if they only had the wit to realize it.