The Hong Kong English language daily South China Morning Post wrote about Cardinal Zen and the forthcoming papal letter to the Chinese Catholics. Here is a summary of three pieces.
First, in a pieced dated 7 April, we learn that the letter will be in Italian. When it is translated into Chinese and English (which makes me shudder), it will be shared with the government in Beijing before its release. This would not be so that the PRC could influence the letter’s content. It is a courtesy.
Apparently the letter will be more "pastoral" than "diplomatic". Surely it is also intended to spark written works from scholars on a range of subjects, include the most controversial. The article states that "Beijing is bound to be unahppy with some points" of the letter.
The first, dated Monday 9 April, speaks about how Hong Kong is in the position of being a middle man between the Holy See and Beijing. It quotes an interview with the former "foreign minister" of the Holy See Archbp. Giovanni Lajolo as saying last year: "The peaceful religious activity of the diocese of Hong Kong, its harmonious presence in the life of this great and hard-working metropolis, should constitute an example that could break down the walls of prejudice and fear towards the Catholic Church."
The late John Baptist Cardinal Wu Cheng-chung created the Holy Spirit Study Centre in 1980, to facilitate exchanges between mainland Catholics and the Church. Its network of mainland bishops and priests is a reference point for the Vatican in its China policy-making. Cardinal Wu issued a pastoral letter in 1989 urging Hong Kong Catholics to care for the welfare of their mainland counterparts.
Another piece, an editorial dated 7 April, focuses on the delicate rapport between Beijing and the Holy See, arguing for "tolerance". A form of "tolerate" was used 5 times in the 360 word editorial, and it rings like a bell. Surely people in Hong Kong knows what this means, especially after the sticky wicket they faced when Beijing was going to violate the terms of the hand-over and impose the mainland’s post-Tiananmen sedition laws on Hong Kong. After repeating Card. Zen’s statement that the Pope’s letter will be pastoral and not diplomatic, the editorial says:
Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun says it will address pastoral issues but will not offer major concessions in negotiations over diplomatic recognition. Significantly, however, after increasing tension in recent weeks, the Vatican will deliver an advance copy of the letter to Beijing as a matter of courtesy in order to soften any provocation. This may not seem to offer much hope of smoothing a rocky path. But it should be remembered that while a gulf remains between Beijing and the Vatican on such matters as a pope’s authority to appoint bishops, Chinese government leaders have acknowledged a role for religion in forging a harmonious society on the mainland. So long as the two sides keep talking, there remains hope for bridging differences and a historic victory for tolerance.
Great effort has been given to downplay the political and diplomatic interests of the Holy See.
The Holy See’s efforts are constantly called "pastoral".
I have expressed me opinion in the past that there is a subtle game of chess being played. However, I have always had the impression that Beijing and the Vatican were playing by different rules. In fact, Western chess and Chinese chess are related enough to have confusing similarities, but different enough that if you get confused, well, you’re dead.
Until recently, I don’t think anyone in Rome really figured that out.
Now, however, they are consulting the proper xiàngqÃ players.
An interesting and somewhat appropriate subtly of Chinese chess is that each side has the pieces that move the same, but the red players and black players have different names and characters on them.