Asian Powers Comment on the Pope’s Resignation
Pope Benedict XVI’s decision to resign has evoked much surprise and commentary in the Western media. But in Asia, a region where Catholicism is a minority religion, the reactions have been more subdued. Today’s post compares the responses of South Korea, India and China.
In a country where close to 8% of the population is Catholic, members of Korea’s Catholic community thanked the Pope for his service:
- “People have a conservative image of Pope Benedict XVI. But through his resignation announcement, I believe he has shown a liberal and reformist mind,” said Priest Lee Kyung-sang of the Archdiocese of Seoul, who teaches church law at the Catholic University of Korea.
- In a statement by the Catholic Bishops Conference of Korea, Rev. Peter Kang U-il said, “We cannot hide our surprise at the Pope’s abrupt decision to step down, but we know the Pope’s heart is filled with love and care for the church…he has also shown deep interest for people in North Korea and sought to help them through economic aid…we accept his brave and spiritual decision with great respect.”
With 17.3 million Catholics in India, the pope’s resignation has generated some commentary in the press.
- “The next Pope, in the eyes of most Catholics, should be younger, a better communicator and someone capable of responding to the moral and ecumenical challenges posed by globalization,” wrote The Hindu in an editorial. Readers of the paper also expressed their wish that “the Church will get a good leader, preferably from outside Europe.”
It was also reported that the election of the next pope will include votes by five Indian cardinals.
- As Kerala Catholic Bishops’ Council Fr Stephen Alathara pointed out, “This is perhaps the first time in the two-millennia history of the Church that five cardinals from India have qualified to attend the conclave and vote for electing the Pope.”
In China, which is officially atheist, the government used this opportunity to comment on China-Vatican relations.
- Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said that China is willing to develop relations with the Vatican if the Vatican severs its diplomatic ties with Taiwan and refrains from interfering in China’s internal affairs, especially in the name of religion.