By HUBERTUS HOFFMANN
UPI Outside View Commentator
MUNICH, Germany, Dec. 5 (UPI) -- There are two cities on the globe in which L'Osservatore Romano -- the official newspaper of the Vatican -- is carefully studied word-for-word and whose reports and commentaries are paid special attention to: the Holy City in Rome and Beijing in the State Administration of Religious Affairs.
The latter is a kind of "Office of the Inquisition" of the Communist Party that ensures that for the People's Republic there is only one God in China: the Communist Party itself. The counterpart in Rome, the former Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was for years the Catholic "Inquisitor," guardian of the pure teachings of the Pope. Currently, at the very top of Benedict XVI's wish list is the establishment of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing. Who will win: the Pope or Beijing?
Read the complete article Outside View: The Pope and China from UPI.
The article is an interesting look at what would be gained by improving relations with the People's Republic of China.
With its small flock of committed Chinese Catholics, Rome would like to make a positive contribution to developments in China. This is exactly what has transpired for some time now in the second important major power in Asia -- India -- which with one billion people, is of an almost equal size. There, the 17 million Catholics have taken on a series of influential government positions: George Fernandes from the former Portuguese colony Goa is the long-standing leader of the Socialist Party and the Rail Workers' Union, father of the Indian atomic bomb and was Defense Minister until 2001.
The future of the Catholic Church lies in a well-educated, young, committed and influential elite in Asia. The Catholics have become catalysts among intellectuals in a relation far beyond their actual number.
The idea that Catholics could follow the same path as they have in India is an interesting one. If the PRC were a functioning democracy, then I would agree with it wholeheartedly. India has been a functioning republic since its independence in 1947. The People's Republic has not followed the example of its southern neighbor.
Hoffmann concludes with the following:
n the last 54 years, the Catholic Church could neither be put on Mao's leash nor cut off from the Vatican. It has not become extinct, but has rejuvenated itself.
The Chinese who "think around the corner," as Fritz Kraemer put it, could even see long-term advantages in the warming of relations.
Unlike the predominantly Catholic Poland of the revolutionary with his cross and miter by the name of John Paul II, Catholics present no threat to the claim to power of communists in Beijing -- their numbers are simply too small.
Even in the strictly communist and primarily Catholic nation of Cuba, the Vatican and dictator Fidel Castro have aligned in the last few years without damage to the powers of state. Alone among communist countries, Castro even ordered a national mourning for John Paul II, lasting several days.
The problem with such a conclusion that Catholics are just too small a portion of the population to cause any trouble if relations are improved is that once you start giving religious freedom to the Catholics, what about Falun Gong? The Tibetans? The mass of Protestant missionaries? Is China willing to open Pandora's Box? I just don't think so.