What do you call three bishops appointed to their posts by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association? Excommunicated – that’s the Vatican’s answer to Beijing’s appointment of three bishops this year. China’s latest response is a crackdown on Chinese Catholics. Associated Press reports:
A number of priests and laymen in China’s underground Catholic church have been detained in the country’s northwest in a struggle over the appointment of a new bishop.Catholic news agencies AsiaNews and ucanews said security officials rounded up men from the underground community in the city of Tianshui over the weekend. They are being held separately and are required to attend political study sessions for four hours each day…However, an official with the local government’s Religious Affairs Bureau said the men were merely taking part in a routine training session.
A year ago normalized diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See looked promising. It’s been sixty years since China and the Vatican had formal relations. But a friendly chat doesn’t seem likely with neither party willing to relinquish the right of episcopal investiture.China only has 12 million Catholics, but there are an estimated 40-130 million Christians in the country; any form of religious rapprochement would be a boon for them all. It certainly wouldn’t make China look bad. As China plays catch-up with western levels of development in a globalized system, it is having to find solutions for problems the west has also faced. The issue of episcopal investiture, who gets to name Catholic bishops, is just one. The Holy Roman emperors and the kings of France made peace with Rome; let’s hope China does too.