.- The Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, who has become the principal liaison between China and the Holy See, said this week that there is “little probability” that the open letter which Pope Benedict XVI has prepared for the Catholic community in China includes a concession regarding the traditional rights of the Church.
In an interview published by the Hong Kong daily South China Morning Post, the Cardinal said the main purpose of the letter is to clarify pastoral issues important to the Church in China and not to analyze the state of diplomatic relations.
“It will focus on pastoral issues more than on diplomacy, since the letter is not addressed to the Chinese government, but rather to the faithful in China. The concern of the Pope is not diplomacy but rather the propagation of the faith,” the Cardinal said.
“Rather than creating problems, the letter will resolve them. But if Beijing thinks that the Holy See is going to make a huge commitment, I fear they are going to be disappointed,” he added.
According to Cardinal Zen, the letter will not touch upon diplomatic issues, but rather it is probable that Pope Benedict XVI will insist on his prerogative to appoint bishops of the Church in any part of the world, including China. This is one of the main points of confrontation between Rome and Beijing, since the Chinese do not accept any authority above their own within their territory.
“I think it will mention that even though conversations about candidates for bishops will take place with the Chinese government, the Pope has the ultimate right to name bishops. Beijing needs to understand that the Church has a limit. It is a religious affair that will not harm Chinese pride,” he said.
According to Cardinal Zen, the letter is still being refined and will be sent after Holy Week. It will be published in Chinese, English and Italian.