December 17, 2010.
The Vatican has accused China of oppressing religious freedom and says that attempts to control the conscience of its citizens and interfere in the internal affairs of the Catholic Church does no credit to Beijing. In a strongly worded statement, the Vatican said their attitude is a sign of fear, weakness and intransigent intolerance. The report also states that Beijing has “unilaterally damaged the climate of trust and dialogue” that had developed between the Vatican and the government.
In early December, Beijing forced numerous bishops, priests, nuns and lay people to participate in the National Assembly of Catholic Representatives in China.
The Assembly had been postponed for four years because the bishops loyal to the Vatican had refused to participate.
The Assembly was instituted by the Communist authorities to govern the Church through their bishops. They recently named a president of the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference, a puppet of the government which is not recognized by the Vatican.
The Vatican has now clearly denounced Beijing for forcing many bishops and priests to participate in the Assembly, while giving their thanks to those who resisted the pressure. They have also called on those who were forced to participate to explain the reasons in their dioceses to avoid confusion.
In any case, denouncement of the incident has damaged relations between “clandestine communities” of Catholics who are faithful to Rome and “official communities” of the Communist Party. It has also caused a “loss of confidence necessary to build a true relationship with the Church.”
However, the Vatican has extended their hand and says they are ready for a dialogue with Beijing.