The Vatican and China can only establish diplomatic ties if China allows the Pope to appoint bishops to the country, said Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, former foreign minister of the Holy See, in an interview with The Daily Yomiuri.
The archbishop noted that, even though the bishops appointed by the Vatican are not allowed to exercise authority in China, more than 85 percent of those appointed by the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, later asked to be recognized by the Pope.
The archbishop explained that diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China are desired because there are anywhere from eight million to 18 million in China and “the Pope wishes to have his representatives there in order to take care of their pastoral needs.”
“The real obstacle comes from the Chinese government, which is not yet willing to stop its interference in the appointments of Catholic bishops,” the archbishop was quoted as saying. “The Holy See and China can easily reach an understanding once this preliminary question is resolved.”
The archbishop, who serves as governor of the Vatican, refuted reports that Chinese authorities now consult with the Vatican before they appoint their own bishops through the Patriotic Catholic Association.
“It's not true,” he said. “But at present, more than 85 percent of the bishops in China, even if they are appointed by the government, ask for communion with the Pope.”
He said Pope Benedict is interested in the Holy See's diplomatic activity and its commitment to the defense of religious freedom and for the promotion of peace and development in the world.