POSTED: 4:24 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2010
LAST UPDATED: 4:29 a.m. HST, Dec 22, 2010
BEIJING — China fired back at the Vatican on Wednesday after the Holy See's recent criticism of Beijing's religious appointments, calling such a move "dangerous" and harmful to the Catholic church's development in China.
The Vatican last week condemned China as violating religious freedom and human rights after the election of senior members of China's official Catholic church. A prelate unrecognized by the Vatican was put in charge of its bishop's council. The Vatican called it "unacceptable and hostile acts."
A statement posted Wednesday on the website of China's State Administration for Religious Affairs responded by saying the Vatican is trying to use religion to implement political philosophy, calling that "very dangerous" and warning of repercussions on the church's development in China.
Communist China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and relations have long been tense. Only state-backed churches are recognized, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.
Last week's Vatican statement "was a rude trampling of and contempt for the democratic will of the Chinese Catholic Church, and it was extremely arrogant and disrespect," China's statement said.
"Does a Chinese religious organization have to get a 'majestic authorization' or 'gracious approval' from a foreign group to elect its leadership?" the Chinese statement said.
Bishop Ma Yinglin, whose ordination in 2006 was not recognized by the Vatican, was chosen as head of the bishops' conference of the government-backed church. He reportedly was seen in Rome as too close to the Chinese church's leadership.
Despite the lack of formal diplomatic relations, the sides have in recent years agreed on the nomination of bishops acceptable to both Beijing and Rome.
But tensions rose over the Nov. 20 ordination of the Rev. Joseph Guo Jincai as a bishop without papal approval. The Vatican says only it has the right to name bishops anywhere in the world, a stance the Chinese have long held as a major obstacle to a formal restoration of relations.
Until recently, there have been talks over bishop nominations, and the Vatican has suggested it is prepared to move its diplomatic representation to Beijing once an agreement had been reached.
The Vatican statement last week also expressed anger that many bishops and priests were allegedly forced to take part in this month's leadership assembly.
"The persistent desire to control the most intimate area of citizens' lives, namely their conscience, and to interfere in the internal life of the Catholic church does no credit to China," the Vatican said.
"On the contrary, it seems to be a sign of fear and weakness rather than of strength," the Vatican said.