China: Open to Vatican talks but Catholics must be patriots

Source: Associated Press

By LOUISE WATT

BEIJING (AP) — China’s head of religious affairs said that Beijing is willing to have constructive dialogue with the Vatican but stressed that Catholics should “hold up high the flag of patriotism” and adapt Catholicism to Chinese society.

Wang Zuo’an, the director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, made the remarks Tuesday at a meeting of China’s official Catholic Church, which includes bishops, priests and lay Catholics, state media reported.

Beijing insists that the party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has the authority to appoint Chinese bishops, a decision the Holy See says belongs to the pope alone. This dispute over bishop nominations is the most vexing stumbling block preventing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations.

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. Worship is officially allowed only in state-authorized churches outside the pope’s authority, although many of China’s estimated 12 million Catholics are thought to attend underground churches.

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