China said on Thursday it hoped for a rapid improvement in relations with the Vatican, after an announcement by the Holy See that it had approved a bishop from China's state-run church.
   "We hope that the Vatican will move to improve relations with China as quickly as possible," said Liu Bainian, vice president of the Patriotic Catholic Association, while at the same time blaming the Vatican for a schism that has divided the two sides since 1958.
   "If we had not elected and ordained bishops since (1958) the Catholic Church would have disappeared, but to this very day the Vatican has not accepted its responsibility," he said.
   The Vatican asked Liu about a statement on Wednesday that it had approved the nomination of Zhao Fengchang, a member of the Beijing-backed church in China's Shandong province, as bishop of Yanggu.
   The Catholic Church has been present in China since the year 635 and estimates there are around 10 million believers in the country -- six million clandestine followers of the Vatican and four million faithful to China's "patriotic Church," which broke from the Holy See in 1959.
   Beijing has accused the Vatican of interfering in China's internal affairs by retaining the power to nominate the country's bishops. Until Zhao's nomination, there were 70 bishops recognised by the Chinese authorities against 60 belonging to the "Church of silence" that maintains ties with the Vatican.
22 May 00


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