.- Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong said Monday that Chinese government officials and the Holy See “have entered into real talks” about normalizing diplomatic relations.
In statements to ATV World television in Hong Kong, the new cardinal said he was under the impression that “real talks” between the two parties were under way in Rome. His statements came a week after China’s Director of Religious Affairs, Ye Xiaowen, confirmed that formal contact had been made with the Holy See aimed at establishing bilateral diplomatic relations. According to Ye, this “could take place soon.”
Cardinal Zen also said that one of the most complicated issues in the talks was the issue of appointing bishops, as Beijing considers episcopal appointments by the Holy See to be intrusion into internal affairs.
According to some sources, the Vatican would accept submitting a roster of names to Chinese authorities and allowing Beijing to voice an opinion, as long as the Vatican had the final word. Cardinal Ze said authority over appointments could not be the exclusive domain of an “atheist government.”
The Hong Kong bishop also noted that one of the conditions the Vatican has set for establishing relations is the existence of freedom of religion in China. The Church, he said, calls for “absolute religious freedom.”