Catholics look to next pope to improve China ties
BEIJING (AP) - Shanghai's would-be Catholic bishop has been a virtual prisoner in that city's main seminary for nine months and counting, his penalty for openly challenging China's ruling Communist Party by withdrawing from the country's official bodies that oversee the church.
The treatment dealt out to Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin is the most glaring and high-level example of China's heavy-handed control of the church and the challenge that poses for the Roman Catholic Church as cardinals gather to choose a new pope.
As the College of Cardinals meets at the Vatican for a second day, the fate of the church in China is receiving scant attention, amid bigger concerns over priest shortages, clerical sexual abuse scandals, and giving greater voice to women and laypeople. Yet, China will certainly be an issue before the next pontiff, not only because of continuing repression of Catholics in the country, but also because China's rising economic and diplomatic status is propelling it ever more quickly toward the center of global affairs.
"It would be worth it to see China's authorities open their minds and lose their fear and distrust of religion," parishioner John Liu said while standing in the weather-beaten courtyard of Beijing's 400-year-old Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception.