With all the bad press surrounding Steven Spielberg’s Olympic boycott, Beijing seems to be scrambling to action to diffuse all the negative publicity by wooing a most unlikely target, the Pope. From Michael Sheridan of the Sunday Times (UK):
TEMPTED by the prize of a historic visit to China by Pope Benedict XVI, the nation’s leaders have authorised a renewed effort in confidential discussions with the Vatican to heal their rift and inaugurate diplomatic ties.
The talks have intensified over recent months, leading some diplomatic observers in Beijing to believe the Chinese may be seeking to announce a deal before the Olympic Games in August.
Liu Bainian, the de facto head of Beijing’s official Patriotic Church, has said on several occasions that he would like to welcome the Pope to China once an agreement has been reached.
While the Vatican says it has received no formal invitation, observers say Liu’s words would have been uttered only with approval from the highest levels… [Read more]
In Hong Kong, Bishop John Tong Hon (汤汉), pictured here, has been name as the successor of the outgoing Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who at 76 is one year past the retirement age. The softspoken Bishop Tong is widely expected to be much less confrontational with Beijing than the outspoken Cardinal Zen, long known as a vocal champion of social justice and democracy. Nevertheless, he is expected to help pave the way for a new era in Vatican-Beijing relations. From The Standard (Hong Kong):
The next leader of the Catholic community in Hong Kong, Bishop John Tong, said yesterday he will not sacrifice his principles in exchange for good relations but will strive to strengthen ties with mainland churches.
He was speaking at a celebration service following his appointment as coadjutor bishop by Pope Benedict two weeks ago.
Tong, who will replace Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun when he retires, hopes for renewed dialogue between the pope and China.
Diplomatic ties between the Vatican and Beijing were severed in 1951, but last June the pope sent a letter to the Chinese church in an unprecedented move to restore contact, although Tong said the Holy See was still awaiting a response.
“The pope has made himself very clear and has been honest in the letter. Now it depends on how China is responding. The ball is on their side,” Tong said…[Read more]
Meanwhile, in Shenyang in northeast China, a Catholic nun by the name of Sister Fabian Han Fengxia has been quietly serving HIV-positive patients among the local gay community. Adam Minter has more:
The gray plaza in front of Shenyang’s century-old gothic cathedral is largely abandoned on this Sunday morning, the church’s twin spires separated from a bustling shopping district by a crusty wrought-iron fence that does nothing to keep out the thump of Chinese hip-hop blaring from nearby storefronts. From a bunker-like convent beside the cathedral, the Catholic seat of northeast China’s Liaoning Province, a nun in a calf-length habit rushes toward me. Sister Fabian Han Fengxia, 36, wears wire-rimmed glasses and a shiny silver medallion that signifies her place among the diocese’s community of 93 nuns. “We are very busy these days,” she says, firmly shaking my hand. “Many new clients.”
These particular clients are 68 mostly gay HIV-positive residents of Shenyang, an industrial metropolis of 7 million people. “The gay community is where the disease is here,” she tells me. “So we work with them.” Sister Fabian directs a program that provides all manner of support for HIV-positive men and women, such as emergency funds, job training, medical services at the diocesan clinic—and even house calls. Though most of the clients are in Shenyang, Fabian and the other sisters also tend to a rural village of farmers infected during a blood collection drive in the 1990s. Officially, it’s estimated that there are more than 650,000 HIV-positive people in China (unofficially, the number is thought to exceed 1 million), with Liaoning home to 3,000 of them, according to Fabian. China’s Ministry of Health says that between 2.5 and 6.5 percent of China’s gay men are infected, and the number is growing; these days, the ministry records an average of 3,000 new cases per month.[Read more]
Photo from CnCatholic.org