Channels open between Beijing and the Vatican

Updated:2018-04-04 14:42:46

  Assessment comes as white paper details protection of religious belief

  China and the Vatican have an open and effective channel to hold discussions and exchange views, which holds the promise of more constructive dialogue to improve ties, senior religious affairs officials said on Tuesday.

  "Improving ties between China and the Vatican is the desire of both sides. China has made solid efforts to improve the relationship with the Vatican," Chen Zongrong, deputy director of the former State Administration of Religious Affairs, said on Tuesday.

  The administration has been merged into the United Front Work Department of the Communist Party of China Central Committee amid recent Party and government institutional reforms.

  Xiao Hong, another senior administration official, said China has been maintaining contact with the Vatican and holding thorough discussions on certain issues. "China has always been sincere in improving the relationship with the Vatican," he said. "We hope both sides will participate in constructive dialogue to make constant efforts to improve ties."

  The Foreign Ministry has said several times that before establishing China-Vatican diplomatic ties, the Vatican has to cut "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and accept that the island is part of China. In addition, the Vatican should not interfere in China's internal affairs.

  Chen and Xiao made their remarks at a news conference in Beijing on the release of a white paper on China's policies and practices on protecting freedom of religious belief.

  The previous white paper on the issue was published 15 years ago, so it's time for an update, Chen said.

  China has 6 million Catholics, and about 200 million people are the followers of Buddhism, Taoism, Islam or Christianity, the white paper says.

  "Different religions in China have shifted from focusing on recruiting as many followers as possible to providing better services," Chen said.

  Religions in China will continue to adhere to the principle of independence and self-management, but that does not mean severing normal connections between religious organizations in China and their foreign counterparts, according to the document issued by the State Council Information Office.

  It said the central government supports and encourages all religions to conduct international exchanges; build, develop and consolidate friendly relations with religious groups overseas; enhance mutual trust and eliminate misgivings; and present a positive image based on independence, equality and mutual respect.

  China will also actively guide religions in adapting to socialist society, the document said. "Developing religions in the Chinese context doesn't mean the doctrines of different religions will be changed. We just want to guide religious groups to integrate religious teachings and rules with Chinese culture," Chen said.