Ties with the Vatican can only be put in place if the next Pope decided to sever ties with Taiwan and stops interfering in China’s domestic affairs, Beijing said Monday, setting strict parameters to improve relations with the Papal State.
Speaking the regular press briefing on Monday, foreign ministry spokesperson, Hong Lei said China will “develop relations with the Vatican if the Vatican severs its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and refrains from interfering in China's internal affairs.”
Hong added that China has acknowledged reports that Pope Benedict XVI will resign on February. 28.
“Hong said China hopes the Vatican will show flexibility and sincerity in creating conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican ties under the new pope,” state-run Xinhua news agency reported.
Hong urged the Vatican to recognise the “government of the People's Republic of China as the sole legal government representing China, as well as recognise that Taiwan is part of China.”
The Vatican must also refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs, particularly the interference in the name of religion, Hong said.
China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taipei, capital of Taiwan.
But Christianity is regarded as the fast growing religion next to Buddhism in communist China.
According to the BBC, China has over 25 million practicing Christians, majority of them Catholics. But the actual number is said to be much more than that.
Most recently, Beijing and the Vatican clashed over the stripping of a bishop appointed by the Vatican of his post.
The Vatican slammed China's state-run Catholic church late November for stripping a bishop of his title, insisting the move "has no legal value whatsoever".
Chinese Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was ordained as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in July, with Pope Benedict XVI's approval. He was stripped of his title by the state-backed church after announcing his split from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) during the ceremony.
According to the US-based ChinaAid report released earlier in February, government persecution of Christians and churches in mainland China deteriorated for the seventh straight year, “with the defining characteristic of 2012's persecution being the government's stated intention of eradicating house churches. “
Based on information collected by ChinaAid in 2012 on 132 persecution cases involving 4,919 people, the number of people sentenced jumped 125 percent over the previous year and the incidences of persecution rose 41.9 percent from 2011.