Ahead of Sunday's canonisation of 120 Chinese martyrs, China intensified a war of words with the Vatican on Wednesday, publishing rules to curb missionaries and getting Communist Party-backed bishops to accuse Rome of fomenting anti-government sentiment among Chinese Catholics.
    "This public humiliation and scorn for the Chinese people and Chinese church is something we absolutely cannot tolerate and accept," the state-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and the Chinese Catholics Bishops College said in a statement.
    "Some in the Holy See want to use this 'canonisation' to distort and slander history, renew control over China's Catholic church and encourage worshippers to oppose the government," the groups said.
    Their statement, reported in major national newspapers Wednesday, added to a barrage of harsh words from the Chinese government and marked the clergy's most public criticism of the Vatican in years.
    A Vatican spokesman denied that Sunday's ceremony was politically motivated or "directed against anyone."
    The spokesman, Joaquin Navarro-Valls, noted on Tuesday that Sunday marked the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of missionaries, and was a natural time to name saints.
    Meanwhile Church leaders from Hong Kong and Taiwan are defending this Sunday's canonisation of 120 Chinese and missionary martyrs amid strong criticism from the government and official Church in mainland China.
    Coadjutor Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong says the Chinese government aims to force the Church in China to declare loyalty to the government over the Holy See by condemning the canonisation as a national insult.
    Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi of Kaohsiung, president of the bishops' conference in Taiwan, told UCA News that he is saddened to see China "politicising and emotionalising" the canonisation, saying he believes that most Catholics in mainland China have been longing to have their own saints.

29 Sep 00

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