| GEO World|
Vatican 'restricts religious freedom': China
| Updated at: 1507 PST, Thursday, November 25, 2010|
BEIJING: China, which strictly controls the church, said Thursday that Vatican opposition to the official Chinese Catholic body's ordination of a bishop amounted to a violation of freedom of religion.
"Any kind of allegation or intervention constitutes an act of restriction of freedom and non-tolerance," foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters.
Hong was responding to a Vatican statement on Wednesday which said the ordination of a bishop by China's state-run Catholic church -- without the pope's blessing -- was "a serious violation" of religious freedom.
Hong said the state-controlled Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association carried out its ordination work independently, saying it reflected China's "freedom of religious belief" and Vatican interference violated that freedom.
Beijing-Vatican relations have been tense for decades and the two sides have been working to normalise ties since they were frozen in 1951 when the Holy See officially recognised Taiwan as the legitimate Chinese government.
China considers the island part of its territory.
Tensions resurfaced over the ordination last weekend of Father Guo Jincai in the northern city of Chengde.
The Vatican's statement said the ordination was "a serious violation of freedom of religion and conscience," and "offends the Holy Father."
The ordination was announced by the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, which does not acknowledge the authority of Pope Benedict XVI and is fiercely opposed to "clandestine" Catholic Church clergy in China who are loyal to the Vatican.
The Holy See statement confirmed previous reports that suggested a number of bishops loyal to the pope were forced by government officials to attend the ordination.
"Various bishops were subjected to pressures and restrictions on their freedom of movement, with the aim of forcing them to participate," it said.