Vatican Sees Arrest of Bishop, Priests as Rebuff by China

VATICAN, Nov 29, 01 ( - Following the disappearance of a bishop and his assistant as well as the arrest of twelve Chinese priests in the diocese of Feng Xiang, in the area of Shaanxi on November 4, the Vatican expressed its regret at the actions, but did not appear to be surprised.

The Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire reported on Friday that official sources said this action was perceived in the Vatican to be "a strategy to spurn the extended hand of John Paul II." The pope had addressed a message to China on October 24, in which he earnestly asked for China of resume a dialogue to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See. These relations would be "an advantage for all humanity" in this moment of deep concern within the international community, he had said.

"When we decided to send this message, we already knew that we should not expect a positive answer right away," said the Vatican source, noting the upcoming elections within the Communist Party, planned for next spring. "We hope however that, afterwards, the dialogue will be able to begin again," he said.

Avvenire also said that an August 1999 "secret protocol" from the Chinese government would have ordered "the resumption of repression against clandestine Catholics."

"For two years, the arrests, the destruction of churches, and the closing of seminaries and convents have continued," the newspaper said. This document coincided with the announcement of the canonization of the 120 Chinese martyrs-- which took place on October 1, 2000, also the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist government.

Beijing called the action a provocation, although the Vatican said that no "political or diplomatic consideration" had entered into the choice of this date. It was chosen simply because that date was the first Sunday of the month during the Jubilee year devoted to celebrating missionary activity.

The Chinese government had established a Catholic Patriotic Association in 1957, with its own bishops ordered for the most part without the endorsement of the Holy See. From the beginning of his pontificate, Pope John Paul II has attempted to bring together the faithful of state-controlled association with those of the "underground" Church who remain faithful to the pope. Five times, he has addressed messages to the Chinese, in February 1981 and January 1995, during his two trips to the Philippines; in September 1994; in December 1999; and in October 2001.

Catholic World News Service - Daily News Briefs
29. november 2001

av Webmaster publisert 30.11.2001, sist endret 30.11.2001 - 10:16