The Vatican is preparing to sever diplomatic ties with Taiwan as part of an historic fence-mending exercise with Beijing that could allow Chinese Roman Catholics to practise freely for the first time in 50 years.

The deal, discussed by a senior cardinal as Pope John Paul II was on his deathbed, would pave the way for an estimated eight million Roman Catholics to resume official ties with the Vatican and hold services without fear of persecution. ~The Daily Telegraph

If the deal goes through this is undoubtedly very bad news for Taiwan, as it is a prominent and serious blow, however symbolic, to its very limited diplomatic leverage in the world. My initial response was a momentary one of wanting to criticise the decision, but I then reminded myself that the proper responsibility of the Papacy is obviously the welfare of Catholics and not the vindication of some general principle of anticommunism or the defense of so-called “liberal democracy”.

But I am curious how this deal, evidently one of the final policy decisions of the pontificate of John Paul II, will be greeted by many of the late Pope’s well-wishers. Those who could not stop praising the man for his role in undermining communism in Europe will surely be disappointed, if not bewildered, and one wonders how long it will take the neocons to accuse the late Pope of lacking “moral clarity”. The normalisation of the status of Chinese Catholics, and their freedom from persecution, will also remove one of the major driving forces behind American anti-Chinese politics. It is this that will probably outrage the anti-China lobby more than anything.