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Underground Catholics hail Pope's efforts to build bridges with China

Messages from members China's underground Catholic Church have welcomed the Holy Father's initiatives to heal the rift between the Vatican and the Chinese Government.

The Pope sent a message last week on the occasion of the 400th anniversary of the arrival in Beijing of Jesuit missionary and scientist Matteo Ricci. He apologised to China for errors of the colonial past, pleading for the establishment of diplomatic ties between Beijing and the Vatican, which now recognises Taiwan.

A priest of the underground Church told the Rome-base Fides news agency: "The Holy Father has united us, [Catholics, underground and official]. Only he has the strength, the courage, the ability to vivify the spirit of Christianity, that is love and truth."

Fides also received word from an underground Church intellectual affirming the significance of the Pope's action: "Perhaps this is the first time that we Chinese Catholics are at last united, together to rejoice for this honour, this dignity, and we thank the Pope for his generous gesture."

Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the Fourth Centenary of the arrival in Beijing of missionary and scientist Matteo Ricci SJ