A church for Mao

YOU would think Communism and Christianity have little in common. Mao Tse-Tung’s China doesn’t seem to think so. Beijing has upset the Vatican, the highest seat of power in Christian faith, by ordaining its own bishops. The government sanctioned Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church consecrated last week two bishops without necessary approval of the Pope, the highest official of the Catholic Church.

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Published: Mon 8 May 2006, 10:53 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:19 PM

The Vatican’s feeble protests against the move have been firmly rejected by Beijing saying such criticism ‘ran against’ the Vatican’s desire for better relations with Beijing.

While the Vatican has responded by ‘excommunicating’ the two bishops, the Chinese government insists it had informed the Church about the consecration of the bishops.

Regardless of who is at fault in this rather unpleasant business, the row has certainly dealt a blow to the efforts to improve the strained relations between the Church and China. Incidentally, the workers’ ‘paradise’ created by Mao doesn’t believe in God in the first place, let alone acknowledge the Vatican as its rightful and chief representative. Chinese Catholics were ordered to cut ties with the Vatican after the Communist revolution in 1949. Believers are allowed to worship in state-monitored churches, though millions remain loyal to the Pope and attend services in secret. The Vatican and China’s official church, however, communicate informally, and most Chinese bishops have sought and received papal endorsement of their appointments in the past. Which is why the current move of ordaining two bishops without the Pope’s blessings is perplexing for the Vatican.

It doesn’t certainly portray China in a positive light. In our democratic times, the freedom of faith is rightly considered one of the basic rights. No government or country, whether it believes in religion or not, has any right to coerce its people to do something against their beliefs. Beijing’s move coincides with a US State Department report that ranks China among eight ‘countries of particular concern’ denying religious freedom and transparency. An emerging superpower cannot afford to be accused of religious intolerance.

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