Pope Francis faces first diplomatic test

2013-03-19 09:05
An advertising billboard displaying the front page of Sydney's tabloid newspaper the Daily Telegraph with picture of Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in Sydney. (File, AFP)

An advertising billboard displaying the front page of Sydney's tabloid newspaper the Daily Telegraph with picture of Pope Francis, Argentina's Jorge Mario Bergoglio, in Sydney. (File, AFP)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Vatican City - China's angry reaction to Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou's attendance at the inauguration of Pope Francis on Tuesday is the first taste of a long-running dispute that the new Argentine pontiff may have unique qualities to grapple with.

China's foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying has called on the Vatican - one of only 23 sovereign states in the world that recognise Taipei instead of Beijing - to sever diplomatic ties with the island.

The Vatican should "recognise the Chinese government as the sole legal representative of all China", the spokesperson said on Sunday.

She also said China hoped Francis would "take concrete steps to create conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican relations".

The last time a Taiwanese leader visited the Vatican was in 2005, when then president Chen Shui-bian attended the funeral of pope John Paul II.

An incensed Beijing refused to send a representative and filed a protest to Italy for issuing Chen a visa.

Hope for dialogue

This time, it appears to be boycotting again but the Vatican has emphasised it has not sent out specific invitations.

"No one is privileged, no one is refused, everyone is welcome if they say they are coming," Vatican spokesperson Federico Lombardi said.

Li Xiaoyong, spokesperson for the Chinese embassy in Rome, said: "There will be no delegation from China. China has expressed its congratulations.

"We hope that with the guidance of the new pontiff, the Vatican side can take a step towards us for a dialogue with mutual respect," he said.

Bernardo Cervellera, director of AsiaNews in Rome, a Catholic news agency specialising in Asian affairs, said: "The Vatican cannot block Taiwan from coming. It is a public ceremony."

He said the Chinese reaction was "like a broken record - it masks the fact that they do not really know what to do".

Excommunication

"They are stuck in their own succession," he said, referring to the nomination last week of new President Xi Jinping.

China's communist regime broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and six years later set up its own Catholic church, which does not recognise the pope as its head, while the Vatican continued to direct its own unofficial church in China.

Anthony E Clark, an expert on the faith in the country, who teaches Chinese history at Whitworth University in the United States, said: "China's official stance toward the Vatican is that the pope should have no governing role in China's Catholic community.

Relations worsened under Benedict XVI, with the Vatican excommunicating at least three bishops ordained by the official church in China and Chinese authorities curtailing the freedoms of prelates.

The dispute is reminiscent of historical disputes between the Vatican and the lay governments of Europe. The Vatican alone reserves the right to name bishops, while China sees this as a type of interference in its internal affairs.

Cervellera said the Argentine pope would be well equipped to deal with Asian affairs because of his experience of working under Argentina's authoritarian regime and his advocacy on poverty issues during an economic crisis there.

Faithful feeling vulnerable

"Asians feel him very close," he said.

Cervellera said the Vatican had signalled it was willing to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan and that the ball was in China's court.

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong, agreed.

"All the popes have been very understanding with Beijing. Now it is up to China's new leadership," he was quoted by Italian media as saying.

The dispute has left China's Catholics - a minority among the estimated 67 million Christians of all denominations - feeling vulnerable.

There are believed to be up to 12 million Catholics in China.

Inspiration from famous missionary

Bishop John Fang Xingyao, chairperson of the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was quoted by Hong Kong's South China Morning Post as saying he hoped the new pope would "turn over a new leaf" in relations.

"Given that God has chosen the new Pope as a leader, I'm sure he would grant him the ability to build better relations," Fang said.

In negotiating the difficult diplomatic waters, Francis could take inspiration from Matteo Ricci, a fellow Jesuit and a fluent Mandarin speaker who became a famous missionary in China at the end of the 16th century.

Ricci's book The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven argued that Confucianism - the great Chinese philosophy - and Christianity were not opposed but in fact very similar.

Read more on:    roman catholic church  |  xi jinping  |  pope francis  |  ma ying-jeou  |  vatican city  |  china  |  taiwan  |  religion
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
4 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

This is what South Africans Googled in 2014!

Find out who and what South Africans were most curious about in 2014!

 
 

I love summer.24

This hilarious song is your new holiday anthem
The world's least visited destination is breathtaking!
LOL treadmill fail!
Google’s top searches of 2014

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

2DAYS ONLY – 30% off Appliances

Coffee makers, blenders, fans, juicers and more. T&Cs apply. Shop now!

2 DAYS ONLY – 40% off books

Get 40% off when you buy 2 books. For two days only! T&Cs apply. Buy now!

Up to 50% off on outdoor gear

Save on chairs, blankets, cooler bags, umbrellas and more. Shop now!

Save on Samsung

Cameras, mobile phones, TVs, Tablets and more. While stocks last. Shop now!

Grand Theft Auto 5

Now available on PS4, Xbox One and PC from R649. Buy now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

You may be emotionally defensive or reserved today. You need to step up today as there may be extra responsibilities to deal with....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.