HONG KONG – A leader of China's state-controlled Catholic church said Friday he suspected the Vatican appointed an anti-communist Hong Kong bishop to be cardinal because the pope wanted to play a role in the Communist Party's demise.
Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, noted that the Roman Catholic Church was active in toppling communism in Poland in 1989. Liu suggested that Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, whose appointment to cardinal was announced last month, would be part of a similar strategy in China.
"Why would you appoint someone who doesn't support communism as a cardinal?" Liu said in an interview in Beijing with Hong Kong Cable TV.
"Is it like Poland? Didn't the church play a big role in Poland?" Liu asked.
Liu argued that socialism and Christianity were compatible.
"China's socialist system comes from God. We should all protect it and obey it. This is what the Bible tells us to do," he said.
China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communists took power. People can worship only in government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.
But millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome. They say they are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labor camps by authorities.
On Thursday, Zen said in a statement that comparing China and Poland "is an act of far-fetched imagination."
"It is obvious that Catholics do not accept communism because of its atheistic premises," he said.
Zen noted that Liu speaks for the state-run church, and said that Chinese Catholics can't freely voice their opinions about the church.
"If freedom were granted to the bishops, priests and faithful to speak out, one would hear views that are very different from those expressed by Mr. Liu," he said.