Thursday, March 14, 2013

China Warns New Pope Not to Mess with Them!

Xi Jinping (right) greets U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta back in 2012.  (source: wikimedia commons) 

China warns new Pope Francis not to mess with them after years of being accused of suppressing Catholicism in their country.

The Chinese government did not wait for the Argentinian to become comfortable in his new role when they cautioned him to stop meddling in the country's affairs.  

According to the New York Times , Foreign Ministry spokesman Hua Chunying said that China hopes the Pope can work on improving relations with Chinese Officials but warned Vatican City to stop interfering in the country's affairs in the name of religion.  She also said that Pope Francis must cut diplomatic ties with the "renegade country" of Taiwan before their relations can improve.

At the same time, Vatican City has resisted cutting those ties with Taiwan and wants the Chinese government to soften their stance on Catholicism and give religious freedom to China's Catholics.  There is an estimated 112 million Roman Catholics in China, which has been split for decades between the state-supervised Church and an "underground faction" that is against all government ties.

Chinese Catholics on both sides honor the Pope as a spiritual leader but the groups are split about the issues of appointing of bishops without papal approval, restrictions placed on the religion, the arrest of some followers, and Vatican City's diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

The political jockeying between the two heavyweights is a story of two contrasting tales. China just named Xu Pinjing (above photo) as their new President on Thursday March 14 as the country undergoes explosive economic growth while painstakingly moving through the confines of environmental issues, a new-found freedom among its people, and a government that is transitioning from Communism to capitalism. By comparison, the Vatican elected their new leader on Wednesday on March 13, hoping the change will spur a growth of followers while the Church undergoes questions about its declining members, updating its aging doctrine to reflect the times, and its handling of priests involved in many molestation cases.  

No question, the rise of China may be seen as an opportunity by Vatican City to increase growth in the Church.  However, their ties with Taiwan may hinder them from spreading their doctrine and increasing their membership during China's good fortune.

This is an upcoming challenge for the newly-elected pope who must decide whether the Church should seize the opportunity in China, which may conflict with its policy on religious freedom or resist the temptation and leave their followers in the status quo.  


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