HK cardinal urges Vatican to be tougher with China

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HONG KONG, AFP

The head of the Catholic church in Hong Kong urged the Vatican Wednesday to take a tougher line on China in its efforts to restore relations with Beijing.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Vatican’s point man on China, called on Rome to end its position of compromise following China’s ordination last year — without the Holy See’s nod — of four bishops to the state-controlled version of the church. “The Vatican is always eager to have the situation normalised. It’s the policy of China that has to be changed,” Zen was quoted as telling the BBC.

“China says ‘we are not afraid of delaying, we would not take the initiative,’” he added.

“What do people gain in procrastinating? We hope the Chinese government will see the point that it is high time to start negotiations and get a conclusion.”

Diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican were severed in 1951, two years after the Communist Party took control of the country.

The official Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association grew up alongside a so-called underground church, which remained loyal to Rome.

Relations between China and the Vatican have improved markedly since Benedict XVI took over the papacy in 2005, with envoys from both sides meeting regularly.

However, the thaw halted last year when the four bishops were ordained.