China offers conditional olive branch to Vatican

China Catholic Church

On Tuesday, the Chinese head of religious affairs said they were willing to have a constructive dialogue with the Vatican, but calls on the Roman Catholic Church to be flexible.

The Holy See does not recognize the legitimacy of either the Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives or the Patriotic Association.

Yu Zhengsheng, chairman of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference National Committee, made the remarks when meeting with the new leaders of Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and Bishops Conference of Catholic Church of China after their latest national congress concluded on Thursday.

Wang Zuoan, head of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, was quoted by state news agency Xinhua on Tuesday as saying China "hopes the Vatican takes an even more flexible and pragmatic attitude, and takes actual steps to create beneficial conditions for improving relations".

Progress in improving the relationship between the Vatican and China has been hit and miss as both sides have struggled to reach compromise on their core beliefs which for the Vatican includes the right to choose its bishops, while for China they include the fundamental hostility to religion imbedded in the ideology of Communism.

Pope Francis hopes that the decades-old gap with China would heal.

The biggest sticking point between the two parties is who should appoint senior clergy for the country's churches.

At that time Benedict also revoked former papal edicts barring Chinese faithful from any contact with the state-sponsored Catholic body.

China fears that the Vatican would intervene with government affairs.

China wants constructive talks to narrow differences, increase consensus and promote improved relations, Wang told a meeting of Chinese Catholics, reports RNS.

"The stance of the Chinese government on China-Vatican relations is consistent and clear", Wang said.

Meanwhile, the China Daily quoted Wang saying that the Catholics in China should handle their own issues without intervention from any foreign groups.

China severed relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the communists took over and the officially atheistic government closed churches and imprisoned priests, some for decades.

China's top political advisor on Thursday urged Catholics to run their church independently and better integrate it into society.

The Vatican said last week it was "certain that all Catholics in China are waiting with trepidation for positive signals that would help them have trust in dialogue between civil authorities and the Holy See and hope for a future of unity and harmony".

Bishop Ma Yinglin-who is not recognized by the Vatican-was re-elected to a new 5-year term as president of the Chinese bishops' council.

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