The Zen of Diplomacy

Joseph Card. ZenI love this guy. 

The Bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Card. Zen has said that dialogue between the Holy See and Beijing "cannot continue".  He was reacting (in part) to the "Patriot Church’s" illicit (but probably valid) consecration of a bishop without the involvement of the Holy See.   This an AP story which is reproduced in various ways by different outlets.  The People’s Daily and China Daily seem to be silent, though Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post (which is by subscription only, darn it) has the story.   The Epoch Times has another but similar view.

Another illicit consecration is due on Wednesday.  These are the first illicit consecrations since the year 2000.   The government Church, the Patriotic Catholic Association, claims some 4 million members while the true "underground" Catholic Church probably some 10 million faithful.  Back on 12 April there was a report via the Xinhua news service about an official of the PRC sayuing there there was no timetable for talks between the Vatican and Beijing. 

In reaction to the consecrations (and probably a lot more beside) Card. Zen said dialogue "cannot continue because people will think we are prepared to surrender".

"We cannot budge. When you brutally place such a fait accompli, how can you call this dialogue?"

According to the newstory: "The newspaper reported on its front page that Zen said the Vatican would issue a ‘very strong reaction to underline the seriousness of the matter’ later Tuesday or on Wednesday."  Thus, we shall wait to read what happens next.

Cardinal Zen has been a thorn in the side as well as the paw of the PRC for some time. 

Part of the context of this move on the part of the "official Cathoic Church" in the PRC is fairly recent continuing expression of willingness of the Holy See to uproot their diplomatic presence from Taiwan and return it to Beijing after an absence since 1951.  This would be a real problem for Taiwan in the international diplomatic sphere, since the Holy See is just about the only, if not the only, diplomatic presence which recognizes Taiwan.   Just about every other nation, I believe, has declared itself in favor of the "one China policy" which the PRC demands.  Even during the meeting in the USA between President Bush and Hú Jǐntāo, the Chinese president insisted on the one China policy while standing in front of the White House.  On this point the PRC is relentless while the people of Taiwan are similarly obstinent.  On March 7 an official in Beijing said: "We hope the Vatican will not maintain a so-called diplomatic relations with a province or a locality of China".

Rumblings and hints that I am getting here in Rome from the Chinese Catholics I know, suggest to me that they know the break between the Vatican and Taipai is coming sooner rather than later.  So, Cardinal Zen’s comments strike me as all the more important.

If someone out there has a subscription to the South China Morning Post, let me know.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. Norman says:

    Dear Fr Z, in case u missed the email, I have emailed you some articles from the SCMP.

  2. Thanks! I will read them carefully.


  3. Paul says:

    In contrast to Cardinal Zen’s warning, we have the view of my local archbishop, who according to this report:, celebrated Mass publicly in a Patriotic Association church. The pertinent quote:

    “Cardinal Mahony, however, told the Times that distinctions between the patriotic and underground churches are “evaporating.” “Those labels probably fit 10 years ago, but they certainly don’t fit today,” said Mahony. This evaporation, if such it be, might be the fruit of a program of cooperation that has existed between the Catholic Church and the Patriotic Association for almost the last 15 years.”

    I find this whole incident bizarre, but do not recall ever reading of any reaction from the Vatican. Fr. Z, can you shed any light on this?

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