The Holy See is watching events unfold in Tibet very quietly and this author is quite sure there will be a statement from the Vatican Diplomatic Service shortly. Tibetans need reassurance that the prayers and hopes of the Catholic people are with the Tibetan people as they struggle with China’s martial crackdown in their mountain society. In defense of Benedict XVI’s silence, this author knows well that the behind the scenes activities of the Holy See are relatively unknown to the world’s public. However, with prayerful solidarity the Catholic Church supports the people of Tibet in their struggle for autonomous rule and freedom from Chinese martial law. However, the delicate relationship between the Holy See and the Chinese government requires delicate balancing to preserve the progress of the Catholic Church in China.

For over fifty years, the Catholic Church in China has been under persecution and government interference. Since Benedict’s ascent to the papal throne, diplomatic progress has made great movement towards some restoration of Catholic freedoms in this Communist country. One of the greatest aspects that have materialized is the Chinese government’s willingness to permit Benedict to appoint bishops for the faithful Catholics in China. This is a great and significant departure from the government’s appointed bishops and clergy. Any miscalculation on the part of the Vatican could result in retaliatory and suppressive actions against Chinese Catholics, an action both parties do not wish to occur.

Benedict XVI’s papal message has consistently been towards developing strong compromises with opposing political and doctrinal ideologies. The situation in Tibet clearly requires the Holy See to consider the larger implications that would result in any premature and anti-Communist statement made by Benedict. On the surface for now, it seems that the Holy See is quiet on this matter. This author suggests that behind the quiet facade of Benedict there are strong diplomatic negotiations taking place to assure a peaceful and nonviolent solution to Tibet’s antagonism with China.

The Church historically has always played a diplomatic role in negotiations of global proportions. Secular observers need to realize that the Church has had a diplomatic corps of some nature since the journeys of Saint Paul. Besides prayerful support, the quiet interventions of Benedict’s diplomats are working to ensure all faiths are reassured in Tibet and China. As a Church, the Holy See has offered diplomatic resources throughout most of recorded modern history. This political and religious problem in Tibet requires peaceful and prayerful activities.

Catholics worldwide are united spiritually with the Tibetan people. Benedict’s perceived silence so far on this crisis should not be misconstrued as inactivity on the part of the Church. One can be certain; the Catholic Church needs to weigh all options involved in this troubled conflict. This author has no doubt that Benedict prayerfully supports and prays for the unity of the people of Tibet.

Hugh McNichol writes on Catholic topics and matters. He writes daily @

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