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AFP – Thursday, December 23

China says Vatican criticism ‘imprudent’, ‘dangerous’

BEIJING (AFP) – – China on Wednesday fired a fierce broadside at the Vatican, slamming its criticism of the country’s state-sanctioned Catholic church, which is not recognised by the pope, as “imprudent” and “dangerous”.

The comments from China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs came after the Vatican accused Beijing of “unacceptable and hostile acts”, following a high-level meeting earlier this month of state-approved bishops.

“The Vatican’s behaviour is very imprudent and ungrounded,” a spokesman for the administration said in a statement, adding the remarks from the Holy See constituted an “attack on religious freedom in China”.

“The Vatican’s position is well-known. It works to promote political ideas under the pretext of religious belief, which is very dangerous and will seriously harm the healthy development of Chinese Catholicism in China.”

The Chinese bishops elected a new chairman — Bishop Fang Xingyao — of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which controls the state-backed church, as well as a new leader of the council of Chinese bishops.

The Holy See had also criticised the ordination last month of a priest in the northern Chinese city of Chengde, which it had not approved.

Last week, the Vatican said in a statement that both incidents had “unilaterally damaged the dialogue and climate of trust that had been established” between the Holy See and China.

The Vatican said the meeting had been “imposed on numerous bishops, priests, religious and lay faithful,” describing China’s “persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens’ lives” as “a sign of fear and weakness.”

While the Holy See reaffirmed its “own wish to dialogue honestly,” it said the meeting was a sign of the state church’s “intransigent intolerance” and condemned the “grave violation of the human rights” of those forced to attend.

The state religious body fired back on Wednesday that the Vatican’s statement was a “brutal trampling of and contempt for” the will of the Chinese Catholic church.

“Chinese citizens enjoy freedom of religion and at the same time, religious organisations should not be influenced by foreign forces,” it said.

The Chinese Patriotic Chinese Association does not acknowledge the authority of Pope Benedict XVI and is fiercely opposed to clergy in China who are loyal to the Vatican.

“China’s Catholics have the right to elect their own bishops. The Vatican does not understand China’s situation,” the association’s vice-president Liu Bainian told AFP at the conclusion of its bishops’ meeting earlier this month.

The Vatican and China have not had formal diplomatic ties since 1951, when the Holy See angered Mao Zedong‘s Communist government by recognising the Nationalist Chinese regime as the legitimate government of China.

The Nationalists fled to Taiwan after losing a civil war with the Communists in 1949. As such, the Vatican is one of the few states that recognises the island, which Beijing considers part of its own territory.

The State Administration for Religious Affairs said China had acted with the “utmost sincerity” in talks in recent years to improve relations with the Holy See, but blamed “some people at the Vatican” for disrupting those negotiations.

Official tallies put the number of Catholics in China at 5.7 million, including members of both the unofficial and official churches.

Human rights groups say that those who remain loyal to the Vatican often suffer persecution, with detentions of bishops common.

source URL: http://sg.news.yahoo.com/afp/20101222/tap-china-religion-vatican-diplomacy-8d4ea94.html