Chinese government publication lambasts pope for Christmas remarks
China’s state-run newspaper lambasted recently Pope Benedict XVI in its editorial, accusing the Vatican of being untrue to Catholic core beliefs, and saying it is unrealistic in its policy towards China.
While the Chinese government has issued no official rebuttal to the pope’s Christmas message which criticized China for curtailing religious freedoms, the government-approved Global Times editorial said the Vatican should lay off Beijing’s affairs, The Irish Times said.
The Global Times is the English language version of the government’s People’s Daily newspaper, The Irish Times reported.
The Global Times’ editorial said, “The Vatican’s claim that religious identity goes beyond everything else is unrealistic, and even harmful.” It added, “What the Vatican demands from China is power, it is not about the true core of Catholic belief.”
While stating that the pontiff “sounded more like a western politician than a religious leader,” The Global Times said, “before the pope attacks China’s internal affairs, he may want to rethink the Vatican’s so-called role as a protector of religious freedom.”
The editorial acknowledged that religion is a personal freedom. “However, every person also has an identity bound by law, their citizenship,” The Global Times said, adding, “Sooner or later, Vatican will have to adjust its China policy.”
In his Christmas message the pope said, “May the birth of the Savior strengthen the spirit of faith, patience and courage of the faithful of the Church in mainland China, that they may not lose heart through the limitations imposed on their freedom of religion and conscience.”
Escalation of tensions
Last month, China’s state-run Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association ordained a bishop who did not have papal approval, and forced Catholic bishops in China who recognize Vatican authority to attend the ordination. (See http://theundergroundsite.com/index.php/2010/11/china%e2%80%99s-newest-bishop-faces-possible-excommunication-14628).
This month, China further inflamed tensions by arranging for an unrecognized bishop to head the bishops’ conference, and chose a bishop without papal approval to lead the patriotic association, according to Forbes.
The Vatican said China “unilaterally damaged the dialogue and climate of trust,” and said that by forcing papal-recognized bishops to participate, they performed a “grave violation of their human rights, particularly their freedom of religion and of conscience,” Forbes reported.
According to Forbes, most Chinese Catholics and Protestants prefer illegal “house churches” to state-approved churches. Beijing claims to have 23 million members of official Christian churches, but they are outnumbered by 107 million members of illegal house churches.
The pope’s Christmas remarks may be viewed as a signal that the Vatican will be tougher on China, The Irish Times said.
A losing hand
Forbes said officially-atheist China “is playing a losing hand,” noting that illegal churches are too plentiful to control and China cannot hope to arrest and imprison 107 million Christians.
Christianity has a firm hold in China, from the countryside to the cities, Forbes said, adding, “China’s people do not believe in communism anymore, and in its place they are taking up religion,” citing other faiths including Buddhism, Daoism, and Islam.
China’s antagonism to Benedict may in part be due to the perception of its leadership that Pope John II is partly responsible for the failure of communism in the former Soviet Union, Forbes said.
Forbes noted that as China emerges to be a major power, predictions that it may “own” the 21st century may be flawed amid national hubris that drives China’s leadership to create “more adversaries than they can deal with.”