China intends to work with the Vatican to “promote constructive dialogue”

China intends to work diplomatically with the Vatican in order “to promote constructive dialogue so the process of improving bilateral relations can continue to make new progress”. Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said this in light of a Vatican statement, which sought to quell potential controversies between the lines.

Against the backdrop of a shared effort in achieving a diplomatic thaw in relations - which the Holy See has consistently pursued over the years with the process picking up the pace under Francis’ pontificate and with the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin – the Vatican Press Office responded yesterday to journalists’ questions about the recent episcopal ordinations in Chengdu and Xichang and the 9th Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives which “should apparently take place within the month f December”. “The Holy See’s position on these two types of events,” the Press Office said in its statement, “which involve aspects of Church doctrine and discipline, has been clear for some time now. The fact that a bishop whose canonical position is still being examined by the Apostolic See in light of his illegitimate ordination, was present in the two abovementioned episcopal ordinations, has caused embarrassment to the interested parties and upset among Chinese Catholics. The Holy See understands and shares in this pain. Regarding the 9th Assembly, the Holy See is waiting for hard facts before it makes a judgement. In the meantime, the Holy See is certain that all Catholics in China are waiting with trepidation for some positive signs that can help them to have faith in dialogue between the civil Authorities and the Holy See and to hope for a future of unity and harmony.”

The Holy See’s message is subtle, as is fitting in diplomatic speech and while on the one hand it shows closeness and understanding to Chinese faithful in light of the two ordinations that recently caused “upset”, it does not forbid bishops from participating in the meeting convened in order to assign positions within the Patriotic Association and the “Episcopal Council”, bodies the Holy See does not recognise. It leaves open the door to dialogue, emphasising that the Holy See is waiting with trepidation for some positive signs.

During daily briefing in Beijing today, the contents of which were published online, the Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman responded to two questions regarding the Vatican. The first was about the “positive signs” the Vatican is eagerly awaiting in order to move forward in bilateral relations: what signs could China send? “I am not aware of what you just said,” Hua Chunying began by saying. “The Chinese government upholds a consistent and clear principle in handling relations with the Vatican. 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.” During the briefing, the spokeswoman answered a long series of questions about Sao Tome and Principe’s decision – which was welcomed by Beijing – to break diplomatic relations with Taiwan. The Vatican is among the states that has “diplomatic relations” with Taiwan and intends to improve relations with China, a journalist said before asking: “Any new development in the negotiation between the Vatican and China on improving relations?” The spokeswoman responded by saying: “We have repeatedly said that we are ready to have constructive dialogues with the Vatican in accordance with the relevant principle. The line of communication between the two sides is smooth and effective. We will continue to make concerted efforts with the Vatican to move ahead with the improvement of bilateral relations.”