The second in command of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, Mr. Liu Bainian, has said that a visit by the Pope to China requires certain conditions be met first.
Mr. Bainian’s comments came in lieu of an interview that he gave to the Italian daily La Repubblica earlier this week. In that interview he said, “I hope with all my strength to be able to see the pope one day here in Beijing, celebrating Mass for us Chinese." However, he claims that this quote was taken out of context.
Mr. Bainian clarified his remarks by telling the China Daily that before a papal visit can occur, “The Vatican must sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan and stop interfering in China's internal affairs if it wants to normalize ties with Beijing.”
"What I meant was I hoped the Pope could visit China and celebrate Mass but only after normalization of diplomatic ties.”
"If the two issues can be resolved properly, the two sides will have favorable conditions to improve ties."
Pope Benedict XVI must have realized that these two preconditions still existed because when he was asked on Tuesday about Liu Bainian’s invitation to visit, his reply was, "I can't speak at this time… It's a bit complicated."
Beijing and the Vatican have been at loggerheads since China severed ties in 1951 after the Vatican recognized Taiwan, where the papal envoy had fled a year earlier.
The atmosphere worsened in 1957 when China set up its own Catholic church administered by the atheist communist government.
The Chinese government still insists upon its “right” to appoint bishops and manage its churches. It says that it can do this because political and economic policies should be independent from religious beliefs.