Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Probably a rumor, but a nasty one at that

That the Vatican is going to de-recognize Taiwan and acknowledge China.

April 5, 2005, 4:19 AM EDT

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's bishop said the Vatican wants to cut formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan and recognize the island's rival China, where millions of Roman Catholics risk arrest by worshipping in underground churches.

An official at Taiwan's Embassy to the Holy See said Tuesday the report was false, and calls to the Vatican were not immediately returned.
China's communist leaders ordered Catholics to break ties with the Vatican in 1951. Catholics can only worship in state-sanctioned churches, but millions loyal to the Vatican attend underground churches. The government frequently harasses their followers and clergy.

"The Vatican is planning to give up Taiwan. There's no other way," Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, who heads the only Roman Catholic church on Chinese soil, told reporters late Monday. "Even though this is a difficult thing to do, it has decided to go ahead."

It would be both a political and moral act of cowardice from a city-state and Church which has accumulated great moral authority and international attention from the papacy of the late John Paul II.

Granted, I'm sure no diplomatic policy changes on Taiwan or any other entity can be made with a vacancy on the Throne of St. Peter. But if there was some move on this front within the bureaucracy of Vatican City, most certainly the next pontiff will have to sign off off on it.

To do so would be a mistake. China is not going to allow the Church the freedom of worship and administration it rightly demands and rightly should stand for. And throwing Taiwan to the lions by dissing them at a time when China has shown increased belligerence would be a disservice to the moral legacy of the Catholic Church, especially coming on the heels of the death of the anti-Communist Polish pope.

For the fearless witness of the Gospel, for the sake of the saints in China, for the sake of the Taiwanese who yearn only to live, work, and worship free from the menacing threat of the People's Liberation Army, one of the first orders of business by the next pontiff should be to quash these rumors and to challenge China to let the faithful worship openly and freely.