World News and Trends: The Catholic Church, China and Taiwan

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The Catholic Church, China and Taiwan

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In recent decades the Chinese have periodically cracked down on Christians. In recent months persecution has become very intense. There are some 12 million Roman Catholics in China normally classified as members of the so-called "patriotic" church with no relationship permitted with the Vatican.

Recent reports indicate that the Vatican may abandon Taiwan diplomatically to win Chinese support for China's Catholics. Reporting from Beijing for The Sunday Telegraph (April 10), Peter Goff stated that the "Church prepares [the] way for millions to worship without fear of persecution." The stark title of his article is: "Vatican Will Abandon Taiwan to Win China's Catholics."

Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong is a leading adviser for the Vatican on Chinese issues. He said that "the Holy See has been thinking of giving up Taiwan. This is a difficult [decision], but it has decided to do it. If the Holy See does not establish [diplomatic] ties with China, Catholics there will not have real freedom."

Up to now the Vatican has been the only state in Europe to recognize Taiwan's sovereignty. Pope John Paul II's pontificate did not experience good relations with China primarily because of his unrelenting opposition to communism. The Vatican is apparently trying to "put this right" as soon as practically possible. (Sources: The Wall Street Journal Europe, The Sunday Telegraph [London].)