05/04/2018, 15.11
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Vatican Radio and the 'magic wand' in dialogue between China and the Holy See

by Shan Ren Shen Fu (山人神父)

According to the well-known priest-blogger, the organ of the Holy See is assuming styles and tones similar to those of Chinese newspapers. In the China-Vatican dialogue, press campaigns have inflamed the topic, but nobody knows the results.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The Vatican Radio risks taking on the same style and tone as the Chinese newspapers. This is the ironic and jovial consideration of a popular Chinese priest-blogger, Shanren Shenfu (the mountain priest). In a recent blog, he comments on a news item published on Vatican Radio (or better on "Vatican news"), entitled "Dialogue with China: there is no magic wand," on May 2. The article traces with very diplomatic tones the past of the Church in China and the attempts at dialogue already started in the 1980s between the Holy See and the government of Beijing. Stressing that it is necessary "the effort not to promote polemical clashes", the article talks about past persecutions as a "particularly contrasted historical phase and source of acute suffering for many pastors and faithful". The present phase, with the implementation of the new regulations, with churches and crosses destroyed and with the prohibition of young people under 18 from going to church, is referred to as "signs of a certain tightening". Our blogger concludes: "now that Vatican Radio expresses itself in a strange way, to whom should we look, trust and believe?".

On the "China-Vatican" theme there is little left for an ordinary person such as myself to add.  The wave of media attention has already fueled heated speculation, instigating acute moments that have followed one after the other. However, due to the lack of transparency, all opinions are ultimately only various hypotheses, and there is no news of any concrete results.

But suddenly today I read an article on Vatican Radio, whose title even uses the word "magic wand". My first reaction was to think that this title was seriously considered, and implies the sense of "you stir, but I will not stir" or "you can stir, but I cannot stir"[i]. But thinking a little further, it seemed that maybe the Vatican Radio writer was not joking: maybe he thinks it’s funny?!

The sacredness of the subject of the dialogues between China and the Vatican - a theme so serious and sacrosanct - has suddenly fallen to its lowest levels, precisely because a Vatican media speaks of "waving a magic wand". This tone would be appropriate if it had been pronounced by the Chinese media. It would not even be surprising if it was written by Gianni Valente of the Vatican Insider. But that such a title appeared right on Vatican Radio is very surprising.

We must never underestimate the title of an article, because today society has fallen to the level only reading headlines. In a deliberate way, many editors choose particular titles to attract attention, and for this they are called "title manipulators". Thanks to these "manipulators", many readers are interested only in looking at the title. But Vatican Radio is serious, it is always serious with both titles and content: after all, Vatican Radio represents the Vatican itself, not just any journalist.

Why am I surprised by this title? First of all, because I do not think the Vatican has a fighting mentality in the negotiations, while its counterpart seems to be overbearing and aggressive. Secondly, the people who represent the Vatican in the negotiations are certainly not witches or wizards, so how can a sacred commitment be defined by themselves as a "magic wand"?

The third and most important point is that for the Chinese faithful Vatican Radio represents the voice of the Church, but now it is expressed in a tone that conforms to the opinions and interests of the other party, suggesting that in the negotiations the Vatican is and was always arrogant. This is contrary to the conscience of us, ordinary faithful of the Chinese Church.

During the negotiations, through the media campaign, many incidents of "bringing down the Great Wall and taking up the burden" were inflicted on the conscience of the Chinese Church[ii].

But now that Vatican Radio expresses itself in a strange way, to whom should we look, trust and believe? I always prefer to think that the Vatican is seeking new ways, accepting tolerance and humiliation for the unity and communion of the Chinese Church. However, I do not want to see the Vatican that, in addition to accepting tolerance and humiliation, is forced to shoulder the slander too, stating that "it will not wave a magic wand against China".


[i] Author uses a Chinese saying to indicate the conflict between the spiritual power of the Church and the pope and that of the Chinese government, seen as alternative.

[ii] Those who destroyed the Great Wall were self-condemned to the yoke of the Mongols. The author uses this image to indicate that in the China-Vatican dialogues it has often seemed that the Vatican party destroyed its own rules by submitting itself to the "yoke" of Beijing

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