China's soft power play with the Vatican
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It could transform into something that the Holy See had in no way intended
A file image of a man walks past the historic St. Joseph's Catholic Cathedral on Wangfujing in Beijing. At the heart of the Vatican's dilemma with China is that the country is ruled by a political entity that has a shocking record on religious freedom and human rights. (Photo by AFP)
The disappearance at government bidding of Chinese Bishop Peter Shao Zumin from his diocese of Wenzhou after the death of his predecessor Bishop Vincent Zhu Weifang so he could not preside at his predecessor's funeral would have sent the warnings bells ringing in the office of Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Petro Parolin.
The key issue is that Bishop Shao — who as coadjutor bishop with automatic succession to Bishop Zhu on his death — has been ordained with the approval of the Holy See. But neither the bishops' conference in China nor the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association recognizes him as a bishop. He doesn't have Chinese government approval.
This move comes, of course, during the intensifying negotiations between the Holy See and China's ruling Communist Party about some sort of deal that will see a rapprochement between the two sides for the first time since the party won the civil war against its Nationalist foes, or Kuomintang, in 1949.
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