A Bitter Game: Beijing Battles With Vatican – Jim Yardley and Keith Bradsher
From the New York Times (link):
From the moment in 1978 when China reopened itself, conditionally, to the outside world, the Roman Catholic Church has been painstakingly working to get back in. Hopes have been raised, then dashed, but this year Rome and Beijing finally seemed close to a historic deal to normalize relations.
Then, unexpectedly, a public spat last week over China’s installation of two bishops without the Vatican‘s approval changed everything. Now, the debate is over how much damage has been done, and why efforts to end 55 years of diplomatic isolation have again gone wrong.
“It is potentially a huge problem,” said the Rev. Jeroom Heyndrickx, a Belgian priest who has acted as an emissary between the sides. “It’s a confrontation. There was an informal dialogue going on. This has been cut off now. The question is, can we go on from here?”
The Communist Party and the Catholic Church, whose last missionaries were ordered out of China in the early 1950’s, make formidable adversaries, each reluctant to give up authority.
The dispute, at its core, is about how much each side is willing to cede in a struggle for control of the hierarchy of China’s official Catholic Church. It is also a battle between old acquaintances: Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who is bishop of Hong Kong, and Liu Bainian, a government official nicknamed “China’s Pope.” They are outspoken men in their 70’s, Cardinal Zen an ardent democracy advocate, Mr. Liu the embodiment of the Chinese system of state-sanctioned religion. They even once lived briefly in the same seminary in Beijing.
See also Wikipedia’s Roman Catholicism in China