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Vatican official says Beijing should release imprisoned clerics to improve its own image

Catholic World News - January 17, 2012

Arguing that China should release the Catholic bishops and priests who are now imprisoned, the secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization said that the move should be “good for China’s international image.”

Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-fai, the top-ranking Chinese cleric at the Vatican, told the AsiaNews service that the Holy See makes regular pleas, through diplomatic intermediaries, for the release of the imprisoned bishops and priests. These inquiries are regularly rebuffed, he said, with Chinese official claiming that they do not know whether the clerics are.

In its own report on Archbishop Hon’s statement, Voice of America misses an obvious opportunity to put more diplomatic pressure on the Beijing government. The Voice of American broadcast said:

The Vatican has had tense relations with communist China, which requires that Catholic priests register with the government. China does not allow the pope to appoint its archbishops and cardinals, which is contrary to the Church's tenets.

This report is awkward and misleading, insofar as it is the Pope’s authority to appoint bishops—not archbishops and cardinals—that is at issue. More to the point, the Voice of America report conveys the impression that the question of appointing bishops is purely a matter of Catholic doctrine: a question in which non-Catholics might have no interest. In fact it is a question of religious liberty: a question of whether Catholics in China will be forced to live under the leadership of bishops appointed by the government.

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