by John Carey BISHOP M:chael Fu Ticshan, the leader of the schismatic national Catholic church in China, has suggested that the Vatican might be behind "acts of sabotage" against his church. He also repeated demands that Rome' should recognise the independence of the Chinese church if it wanted to heal the 20 year old breach.
His comments came shortly after Pope John Paul's indirect appeal for a rapprochement with the Chinese church. which split from Rome in 1957. They coincided with a visit to Hong Kong by the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Casaroli. There the cardinal was expected to meet Chinese Bishop Dominic Tang of Canton, who was allowed out of China last year to receive medical treatment.
Bishop Fu's remarks were made in an interview with the magazine Newsweek. He said that the Vatican had to "show concretely" that it respected the Chinese church's independence and autonomy. Asked to be more specific he said: "At this point our church is suffering from divisive acts of sabotage. There have been underground acts of sabotage against us that have done some damage. These must stop." He could not say what these acts were but claimed that "underground activities" had been going on during the past two years by people from abroad" Asked whether he was suggesting that the Vatican was supporting such activities he said: "We cannot rule out the possibility that the Vatican is behind it."
On the question of a reconciliation between the Vatican and the Chinese Catholic church, Bishop Fu said that he had not seen the text of the Pope's speech and that it was therefore hard to judge whether things had really changed since the split.
"The Vatican took an unfriendly stance and opposed the policies of the Chinese Catholic church," he said. "So now it is up to the Vatican to show with condi-etc actions that things have changed. It needs to reverse history and to reverse historical incidents. This cannot be done in a day I heard that the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Casaroli. said in Manila that the Chinese Catholic church was 'illegitimate'. If this attitude remains dialogue is impossible."
He said that it was "unrealistic" for the Vatican to continue to recognise Taiwan: it was the only body in Europe to do so. But asked how he reconciled the visits to China last year of three cardinals from Marseilles, Vienna and Italy with Vatican recognition of Taiwan he said: "There was no direct mention of the Taiwan issue. The cardinals visited China privately not as representatives sent by the Vatican. Of course we welcome all such friendly visits in the spirit of equality and mutual respect."
He defended the national church's policy of appointing its own bishops without reference to Rome saying they felt it was "God's will": the policy was one of the main reasons for the split.
Cardinal Casaroli's visit to Hong Kong is seen as another move in the efforts to re-establish links with Chinese Catholics. Bishop Tang was consecrated before relations with Rome were severed. He was imprisoned after refusing to serve the national church. He was released last June and allowed to go to Hong Kong.
The Pope told correspondents in Tokyo last week that one of the main aims of his Far East tour was to initiate moves to restore ties between the Vatican and China. Earlier he had told Chinese people in the Philippines that he hoped that "someday soon we shall be able to join together."