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Chinese paper challenges Vatican's authority to appoint bishops

August 12, 2011

China has pressed its case for the local appointment of bishops, with an article in the government-controlled People Daily arguing that the Vatican’s claim to authority is “the West’s historical baggage and frankly its problem.”

People Daily claims that the Vatican’s assertion of the right to name diocesan bishops is an aspect of the temporal power that arose around the papacy in Europe. “China’s history has taken place outside the historical lands of Christianity,” the paper says, “and its experience is totally different.”

The Pope is not only a spiritual leader, but also the head of an independent state, the Chinese paper observes. “Europeans may choose to see this as quaint, but China is questioning the principle of letting a foreign state dictate to another what happens on its own territory.”

People Daily dismisses the Vatican’s excommunication of bishops who were installed without a mandate from the Holy See. Excommunication, the article asserts, is “a medieval tool that has no place in 2011 in China or anywhere.”

Chinese officials have blamed the Vatican for leaving dioceses without leadership. The People Daily article follows that line of argument, saying that the Vatican should allow Chinese officials to appoint their own bishops. “Otherwise,” the article states, “the Church risks being seen as caring more about its own temporal power than the spiritual needs of its Chinese flocks.”


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  • Posted by: dover beachcomber - Aug. 13, 2011 1:02 AM ET USA

    This is a familiar challenge that the Church has met successfully (though not without struggle and sacrifice) several times in its history. Do we have the knowledge and understanding of our history, and the love of God and His Church, that our forerunners did, a thousand years ago and more?