Congratulating the new Argentine pope, Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, China on Thursday reiterated that Beijing would normalise ties with the Vatican only after it cut ties with Taiwan and stopped what the Communist country interpreted as interference in internal affairs.
Foreign ministry spokesperson, Hua Chunying, said Beijing's position on Vatican ties was “consistent and clear.”
“We congratulate the bishop of Argentina on becoming the new pope,” Hua said, adding: “We hope the Roman church, under the leadership of the new pope, can work with China in tandem, make joint efforts, and create favorable conditions for improving ties between the two sides.”
China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taipei, capital of Taiwan.
According to estimates, China has around 25 million practicing Christians of which around 12 million are Catholics.
China has an estimated 12 million Catholics, millions of whom worship in independent congregations outside the control of the party's Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
Shanghai's would-be Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was stripped of his title by the association and remains under virtual house arrest nine months after announcing he was withdrawing from the Patriotic Association and its accompanying official bishops' conference.
According to Associated Press, despite such incidents, the Chinese church remains active and on Thursday, Beijing's Church of the Savior in the western Xishiku district was nearly full for a special Mass honoring the new pope.
“We Catholics are very happy and supportive to learn of the ordination of the new pope. We wish the new pope good health and we hope that we Chinese Catholics are in his prayers,” parishioner Wang Ying told AP as she left the service.