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Pope says he will visit China


Benedict XVI told a delegation from Hong Kong that he will visit communist China but the trip's timing depends on "God's wish", AP reports.

One of the Vatican's goals is to establish diplomatic relations with China, which forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951 after the officially atheist Communists took power. People can worship only in government-controlled churches.

But millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome. They say they are frequently harassed, fined and sometimes sent to labour camps by authorities.

The Hong Kong delegation was in Rome for ceremonies installing 15 new cardinals, including Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen.

Zen, an outspoken champion of religious freedom in China, said he believed the pope would visit Hong Kong first if he made a China trip.

"Hong Kong is part of China and perhaps he should come here as a first step," a Hong Kong newspaper quoted Zen as saying.

On Saturday, a top Vatican foreign affairs official said the "time is ripe" for the Vatican and Beijing to establish diplomatic relations. The official said that the Vatican is willing to move its embassy from Taiwan "immediately" if diplomatic ties with Beijing are established.

The main stumbling blocks have been the Vatican's recognition of Taiwan and China's demand to have a say in the appointment of bishops, which China views as interference in its internal affairs.

No pope has ever visited mainland China. Pope John Paul II, the most-travelled pontiff in history, was unable to visit China during his 26-year papacy. Pope Paul VI made a three-hour stopover in Hong Kong in 1970 when it was a British colony.


SOURCE
Reports: Pope Says He Will Visit China (The Guardian/Associated Press 22/3/06)

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29 Mar 2006