After 24 hours of silence, China’s media today published excerpts, comments and editorials about Pope Francis’ interview with Asia Times. Although the pope did not address religious issues or Church problems, many saw the interview as an attempt to improve diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican, and advised Francis to accept Mao Zedong’s "three principles of independence" (theology, administration, jurisdiction), which would leave the power to appoint bishops in the hands of the Party. The People's Daily’s Global Times publishes an editorial on the issue.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – China’s national print and online media today reported and commented Pope Francis’ interview with Asia Times on Tuesday (2 February) almost 24 hours after the original publication, following a press brief by Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang. “We have noted relevant reports,” Lu said about the interview. “We also hope that the Vatican would adopt a flexible and practical attitude to create conditions for the improvement of the bilateral relationship.”
Excerpts, comments and editorials about the interview appeared today in major state-owned newspapers like the Global Times (which is associated with the People's Daily) and the (nationalist leaning) Guancha. Although the pope followed the lead of the journalist and did not address religious topics or relations between China and the Holy See, both publications focused on relations between Beijing and the Vatican, advising the latter to accept "the principles of independence” for China’s Catholic Church.
These "principles of independence" (theology, administration, jurisdiction) date back to the Mao Zedong’s era, when the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was founded, a situation reiterated by Deng Xiaoping and subsequent decisions However, for many Catholics in China, an "independent" Church means breaking away from papal authority and total submission to the Party.
Below is the editorial published by the Global Times today.
“Beijing urges Vatican to be ‘pragmatic’”. Source: Global Times Published: 2016-2-4 1:08:01
Pope Francis extends Lunar New Year greetings to Xi, Chinese people
China on Wednesday urged the Vatican to adopt a flexible and pragmatic policy toward bilateral ties, after Pope Francis extended Chinese New Year wishes to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people.
"China is sincere about improving relations with the Vatican and has made consistent efforts … We also hope the Vatican takes a flexible and pragmatic attitude and create conditions to improve bilateral relations," Lu Kang, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, said at a Wednesday press briefing.
In an interview with Hong Kong-based Asia Times on Tuesday, Pope Francis extended his wishes and greetings to the Chinese president and people, ahead of the Chinese New Year, which falls on February 8 this year.
The interview was recorded in the Vatican last week when a Chinese delegation was reportedly on a visit to the Holy See, according to The Huffington Post. Citing a recent article in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, The Huffington Post said that China would accept the pontiff's choice of new bishops from a list approved by Chinese authorities, under a deal "reached between the two sides."
Public speculation rose over a China-Vatican deal on bishop consecration when Coadjutor Bishop Zhang Yinlin was consecrated at a Catholic church in Anyang, Henan Province in August 2015. Zhang was believed to be the first bishop recognized by both Beijing and the Holy See since 2012 when consecration of some bishops without the Vatican's approval soured ties.
"It could become a 'Chinese model' for both sides to explore ways to appoint bishops in China," Yan Kejia, director of the Institute of Religious Studies at the Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences, told the Global Times.
The "Chinese model" may be different from the "Vietnamese model," under which bishops nominated by both the Vatican and Vietnam are selected and approved by the Holy See. China may want more say in bilateral cooperation with the Vatican in bishop ordination, according to Liu Guopeng, an associate research fellow at the Institute of World Religion Studies of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
"It is unlikely that the two countries would return to an indifferent attitude toward each other, as the Cold War mentality has been abandoned. China has realized the necessity to integrate and actively interact with the international community. The two significant powers both share the responsibility in promoting world peace and stability, which also provides a platform for dialogue and cooperation," Liu noted.
The foreign ministry did not comment on the possibility of a long-anticipated visit to China by Pope Francis. However, Liu said leaders of the two countries, sharing similarly strong political charisma and promoting bold and resolute reforms, may lead to surprising and promising results.