A Chinese spokesman expressed "strong dissatisfaction" at Italy for granting Mr Chen a visa to go to the Vatican.
Italy has diplomatic ties with Beijing, rather than Taiwan, which China sees as part of its territory.
Mr Chen's visit comes amid speculation the Vatican is ready to switch allegiance to China, after their ties were severed in 1951.
China's foreign ministry confirmed the country would not send any representative to the funeral.
Spokesman Qin Gang also complained that President Chen would use the trip to the Vatican to promote his goal, as Beijing sees it, of formal independence for Taiwan.
"His real intention is to take this opportunity to engage in secessionist activity and create 'two Chinas or one China and one Taiwan,' which is what we are opposed to," he said.
The deputy head of China's state-approved Catholic organisation, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, was also angry about the move.
"The decision to let Chen Shui-bian attend has hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, including five million Catholics," said Liu Bainian.
First off, why is the People's Republic so worried that President Chen is going to lobby on behalf of the society he represents? President Chen is attending the funeral because the late Pope John Paul II was a larger-than-life historic figure, a man of much goodness and leadership, who inspired, and continues to inspire, countless multitudes around the world. The Holy See currently recognizes the Republic, not the People's Republic, an atheist state that nonetheless sees fit to run its own Christian church with Party cadres and yet maintain that it is true Roman Catholicism. Oh, and this is a funeral that China declined to send a representative to; so China plays it passive-agressive, snubbing the Vatican, then claiming to be snubbed by the Vatican.
And don't let the "Chinese Catholic Patriotic Organization" representative's words fool you. Since when do religious organizations indulge in Leftist diction and talk about the "hurt feelings" of any one nation? Christianity, as any faith, is transnational, and if religious leaders speak up about affronts, it is about affronts to moral sensitivities, not petty political differences.
Mad Minerva weighs in:
So let me get this straight. China, an officially atheist Communist state which orders its Christians to join a state-backed "church" or else be persecuted, is not sending any representative to the Vatican today. (Heck, even IRAN is sending someone.) Taiwan, a democratic state with freedom of religion, has been invited by the Holy See and takes up the invitation. China takes offense. It is pathetic.
So what is it that the People's Repbublic is truly so offended by? Control, of course. Pope John Paul commanded no military divisions, but he commanded the allegiance of millions of hearts and minds. A man of peace of dignity, he earned the respect even of those who disagreed with him on certain issues. But the spat with China is not a simple disagreement; it is an existential battle of the deepest dimenasions.
In Matthew 22:21, Christ says, give unto Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and unto God what belongs to God. In the context, he outwitted the Pharisees because the coins had the image of Caesar on them. We can then read the passage to mean that men's souls bear the image of God, and so just as coins bearing the image of Caesar were to be given to the state, a man's soul was to be given up to God.
This is precisely the point. In the absence of religion, faith, conscience, and spirituality, the Communist state aims to place the image of the state upon the soul of each subject (they cannot be called citizens). This is the way the Chinese state has been for thousands of years, and it is why the Chinese Communists lasted longer than the Russians: The Russians at least tolerated an Orthodox clergy that was not under its control.
Among the topics of discussion these last two weeks has been speculation of the identity of a secret cardinal, or a Cardinal in pectore. As a Wikipedia entry explains:
In addition to the named cardinals, a pope may name cardinals in pectore, Latin for in the breast. A cardinal named in pectore is known only to the pope; not even the cardinal so named is aware of his elevation. Cardinals are named in pectore to protect them or their congregations from reprisals if their identities were known.
When I first heard that the late Pope had named a cardinal in pectore, I immediately thought of China. Of the four most virulently authoritarian, nominally Communist states in the world, both Vietnam and Cuba have had long traditions with Catholicism, and did not politicize the passing of the Pope. North Korea and China then are the two places most likely to persecute Catholics who do not toe the party line.
My money's on China, though.
And so it comes down to a farce. On the one hand, the way China tried to politicize this occasion is comical; on the other hand, it is tragic that such a moment need be punctuated by such pettiness.
(Hat-tip: Mad Minerva)
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds and Naruwan Formosa]