Perhaps for the first time, a statement by the Holy See on the Chinese Church and episcopal ordinations is met and judged without anger and without word about China’s traditional stance on the "autonomy" of the Christian communities vis-à-vis the Vatican.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – China used surprisingly “mild tones” in reaction to a statement made a few days ago by the Vatican Press Office, said a Vatican official who chose to remain anonymous. The latter was referring to comments made by Hua Chunying, spokeswoman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry.
The statement in question by Vatican Press Office director Greg Burke concerns the position of the Holy See regarding the episcopal ordinations in Chengdu and Xichang where Mgr She Shiyin, the unlawful and excommunicated bishop of Leshan, intervened thanks to police force.
The statement also dealt with the upcoming Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, set in Beijing for 26-30 December. It said implicitly that the Assembly is incompatible with Catholic doctrine, but the Vatican reserved the right to "make a judgment based on proven facts."
Many bishops were coerced into participating in the last Assembly. The Holy See was hoping to see some "positive signals" from the government to “to place their trust in the dialogue between the civil authorities and the Holy See and to hope for a future of unity and harmony” without violations of religious freedom.
During the weekly press conference yesterday in Beijing, some journalists asked Hua Chunying what "positive signals" might "improve [the] relationship with the Vatican."
The response was very polite. " The Chinese government upholds a consistent and clear principle in handling relations with the Vatican,” Ms Hua said.
“The Chinese side is always sincere about improving relations with the Vatican, and has been working relentlessly to that end. We would like to work with the Vatican toward the shared goal and push for new progress in improving bilateral relations and promoting constructive dialogues.”
The Vatican source notes that perhaps this is the first time that an indication from the Holy See on the Church in China is met without "furious expressions of anger " and without reiterating the typical stereotypes of the government's vision of the Church, centred on the principles of episcopal "autonomy", "self-election" and "self-ordination".
The issue of relations with Taiwan was also not mentioned.
"We hope that this is a sign of improvement," said the source.
Still, some Chinese clergymen note that the surprisingly mild tone of Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman is perhaps an attempt by China not to open a new front of tension in relations with other countries.