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China rules out papal visit, for now
    China for now has ruled out any chance of a visit of John Paul II to the country.
    The news was announced on Monday by Prime Minister Zhu Rongji to Giuliano Amato, his Italian counterpart, during a two-hour meeting in China.
    At the beginning of his three-day tour of the country, Amato told the press that tension must be reduced between the Vatican and Beijing, which was aggravated by the canonisation of 120 China martyrs on 1 October.
    When the Italian Prime Minister mentioned the topic of a possible visit by the Holy Father to China, Zhu was very clear: "No, it's not possible."
    The Communist official said, "The Vatican has offended us; it has opened a wound. Now a period of maturation is indispensable."
    The Chinese government expressed its 'highest indignation' over the canonisation of the martyrs, who died in China between 1648 and 1930. Beijing's Foreign Minister went as far as to say that it was "an obvious provocation and attempt to distort the verdict of history on colonialism and imperialism."
    On a positive note, Zhu said: "We do not think the dialogue is closed; however, now we await an official step from the Vatican."