China-Vatican deal hiccups

chinese cathedralThere goes any prospect of a reunification between the Chinese Communist government and the Vatican. Or maybe things aren’t that ominous. Did you hear that the deal, so close to fruition, according to a front-page blast by The Washington Post, has come crashing to the ground due to the government’s insistence on appointing another bishop to its state-run church?

Whatever happened to the Chinese Communist leaders agreeing to retired bishops that were appointed by the government? That type of talk sounded too good to be true. Or maybe both stories were given too much hype?

It will ll be interesting to see if the Post‘s Edward Cody follows up on last week’s pronouncement that “China and the Roman Catholic Church have inched within reach of normal relations.” Here’s an Associated Press report:

HONG KONG — The Vatican should suspend talks with Beijing on restoring diplomatic ties because China’s official Roman Catholic church is ready to ordain another bishop not approved by the Holy See, Hong Kong’s cardinal said Tuesday.

On Sunday, China’s state-sanctioned church ordained Ma Yinglin as a bishop in the southwestern province of Yunnan. Cardinal Joseph Zen told The Associated Press the Vatican was still considering Ma’s qualifications and had asked for more time to approve it, but China refused.

Beijing was to appoint another new bishop, Liu Xinhong, in eastern Anhui province Wednesday, despite the fact the Vatican has deemed Liu not qualified for the post, Zen said.

We all knew that the major problem in restoring relations between the two sides was determining who has the authority to appoint bishops. Giving up that authority would be a massive step forward for the Chinese government. Perhaps at some point they will realize that attempting to control people’s religious affiliation is nearly impossible. But for now, with these developments, whatever deal that was in the works appears to be in the gutter.

From a journalistic perspective, covering negotiations that have gone from “ever so close to an agreement” to outright collapse is surprising, but overall it has a simple storyline.

My big question is who in the Communist government pushed for the appointment of Liu Xinhong. Clearly some Chinese leaders believed that appointing new bishops was a bad idea. But who were they and why couldn’t they stop this one?

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