By UCA News
Hong Kong’s cardinals appear to be at odds over upcoming talks between the Holy See and China over establishing diplomatic ties.
Cardinal John Tong Hon sees “an improvement and better atmosphere” in China and Vatican relations ahead of the negotiations but stopped short of saying whether this will be enough for progress to be made.
Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, a strong critic of China, believes Beijing’s authoritarian attitude means ties are nowhere near strong enough for talks to succeed.
China and the Holy See resumed long-stalled negotiations in June 2014 and are now preparing to sit down for further talks in which they are expected to seek a resolution to a major rift over who should appoint bishops.
“The second round of talks is expected to take place in the next few months,” an anonymous Church source close to the Vatican told ucanews.com.
Speaking to ucanews.com ahead of the talks, Cardinal Tong said he has seen some good signals coming from both sides in the past few months.
“There are always ups and downs” on China-Vatican relations but “recently, the atmosphere has been quite good,” the cardinal said.
One example was the installation of Vatican-approved Bishop Martin Wu Qinjing in June, the cardinal said.
The bishop of Zhouzhi’s movements and activities were restricted after he was secretly ordained in 2005. But the government now recognizes him following his installation, he added.
Then, there was the episcopal ordination of Joseph Zhang Yinlin in Anyang diocese in early August, which was the first in three years.
These events show “there is an improvement and a better atmosphere” with regard to ties, Cardinal Tong said.
This perceived recent thaw in relations between China and the Vatican followed a major spat after China ordained three illicit bishops without papal mandate in 2011 and 2012.
The Holy See took the unusual step of clearly voicing its opposition to the ordinations and announcing the excommunication of the illicit bishops.
Relations were strained further in 2012 when the bishops’ conference in Beijing, which is not recognized by the Holy See, revoked the coadjutor bishop title of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai after he announced he was quitting the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association during his episcopal ordination.
He is currently confined in a seminary in Shanghai.