A top Vatican official said on Monday he had lodged an "energetic protest" with authorities while in China last week over a recent wave of arrests of Catholic faithful and bishops loyal to Pope John Paul.
    Cardinal Roger Etchegaray also said he regretted that he was not allowed to contact members of the underground Catholic church, which is not recognised by the Beijing communist government.
    Etchegaray, who became the first Vatican-based cardinal to say a public mass in China since the communist victory in 1949, made his comments in a wide-ranging interview with Vatican Radio on his return from China, where he attended a peace conference.
    In the interview, Etchegaray rejected Beijing's criticism of the Vatican's decision to canonise Chinese martyrs next Sunday, the 51st anniversary of Chinese rule.
    The Chinese Foreign Ministry last week complained against the Vatican, calling the choice of the date "extremely hurtful" to the Chinese,
    The Vatican has said the choice of the date was purely religious because it was the feast of St Teresa of Lisieux, patroness of the missions.
    The 120 martyrs -- 87 Chinese and 33 missionaries -- were killed between 1648 and 1930, most in the anti-foreign Boxer Uprising in the 19th century.
    Meanwhile the Australian Director of Catholic Mission, Fr Brian Brock, said, "The canonisation of China's martyrs is an important event for our church. It is a reminder to us of the great sacrifices and suffering of members of the church and its missionaries, who still today, continue to risk their lives for their faith and for their work in supporting religious and human rights against persecution."
Catholic Mission
27 Sep 00

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