28 January 2015, The Tablet

China tells Vatican not to interfere in its internal affairs

China has instructed the Holy See to stop interfering in its internal affairs “in the name of religion”’, if it wants a thaw in relations between the two countries.

The two states have had no diplomatic relations since the 1950s.

Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed a wish to bring about closer relations with the Asian superpower, saying he would visit “tomorrow” if he could. In December he declined a meeting with the Dalai Lama to avoid a diplomatic faux pas.

But following a telegram of greeting from Francis as he flew through Chinese airspace on his way back from the Philippines last week, the Beijing Government laid out its conditions for discussions.

A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, Hua Chunying, said that the Vatican should cut ties with Taiwan, which has been essentially independent since 1950, but which China regards as a rebel region.

He said: "We want to have a constructive dialogue with the Vatican based on the relevant topics.”

"In particular the Vatican should cut what it calls diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognise the Republic of China as the sole government representing China. We then asked the Vatican to stop interfering in China's internal affairs in the name of religion. "

China insists that nations cannot have official relations with both China and Taiwan, with the result that Taiwan has formal diplomatic ties with only two dozen countries, including the Vatican.

In December Pope Francis declined an invitation to visit Taiwan to avoid causing offence to China.

Relations could be about to enter a troubled phase as China is set to consecrate a number of new bishops loyal to the state-approved Church rather than the Vatican for the first time in three years. Some Catholics loyal to the Vatican have been forced underground or imprisoned and persecuted over the years. 

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