Formal China-Vatican ties would send the wrong message: US academic

Nina Shea says Vatican diplomatic deal with country without religious freedom sends the wrong message to the world

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Nina Shea at the Hudson Institute.

Nina Shea at the Hudson Institute. (By Central News Agency)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – U.S. academic and Director of Center for Religious Freedom at the Hudson Institute, Nina Shea said that a potential forming of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China would send the wrong message about religious freedom, on the sidelines of a conference in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 11, reported CNA.

Shea also said that it would be misinformed to conclude at this stage that China and the Vatican are on the verge of a diplomatic agreement.

The Hudson Institute think tank held the “China-Vatican Relations and Religious Freedom in China” seminar on Oct. 11, which saw speeches by four experts. The China-Vatican bishop agreement was a popular subject, and Taiwan’s standing with the Vatican was also mentioned.

On Sept. 22, China and the Vatican signed an agreement to allow joint-appointment of Chinese bishops. The bishop issue is a major point of contention between China and the Vatican, and it is often regarded as the core issue impeding development of formal ties.

The details of the agreement have not been made public, and it has caused malaise among the Catholic community in Asia.

Shea said that because the details of the bishop deal will not be made public, it is difficult to say if establishment of diplomatic ties was discussed.  

After the seminar, U.S. academic and former Chairman of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom, Daniel Mark spoke to Taiwanese media, and said it is too early to tell if China and the Vatican will establish formal diplomatic relations, reported CNA.

Mark said that the Taiwan factor is one of many to consider when thinking about China-Vatican relations, and there are other considerable factors, and these other factors are very complex.  

When asked about the consequences of the bishop deal, Mark said he was pessimistic about future China-Vatican ties, saying that China is unlikely to release control of religious freedom to the Holy See, and that the Vatican is likely to only have some influence in China’s religious policies.

Taiwan Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) departed on Oct. 11 for the Holy See in a bid to maintain good ties with the Vatican, attend a range of religious events, and is expected to meet Pope Francis, reported Taiwan News.