News / Asia

China Congratulates, Criticizes Vatican on New Pope

VOA News
China sent a message of both congratulations and criticism to the Vatican on Thursday following the election of a new Roman Catholic pope.

The Chinese government does not have diplomatic relations with Vatican. The two sides have regularly clashed over authority of China's estimated eight to 12 million Catholics.

Foreign ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said any improvement in relations depends on whether the Vatican cuts ties with Taiwan and stops what she called "interference" in China's affairs.

She also congratulated Pope Francis on his election, saying Beijing hopes he is able to take a "practical and flexible" attitude toward China.

Beijing does not allow the Vatican to appoint its own bishops, an issue that has angered the church. Chinese leaders regard Vatican policy as interference in the country's internal affairs.

The Vatican has threatened to excommunicate those bishops who are ordained by China's Catholic authorities without papal consent. Beijing has detained Vatican-appointed bishops who reject Communist Party control.

Chinese Catholics are only allowed to worship in state-sanctioned churches, although many belong to underground churches that are loyal to Rome.

The church has not had formal diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951, two years after the communist government assumed power. The Vatican says it is willing to open talks with Beijing on setting up diplomatic relations. But China says the Vatican must first relinquish its recognition of Taiwan, the self-administered island that China considers part of its domain.

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