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.

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

Vatican pushes for diplomatic ties with Beijing (CathNews 28/3/06)

Mass on the first anniversary of the death of John Paul II (Vatican Information Service 22/3/06 - temporary url)
Seminar on the Bologna Process (Vatican Information Service 22/3/06 - temporary url)
Pope visits modernistic Rome church commissioned by his predecessor (Catholic News Service 21/3/06)
Text: Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor on Vatican Radio (Independent Catholic News 22/3/06)
Kenneth Zammit Tabona: Fighting fire with fire (Times of Malta 28/3/06)
Archbishop of Westminster Praises Pope Benedict (The Universe 22/3/06)
Pope Benedict XVI: To the newly created Cardinals, their family members and pilgrims present at the Consistory (March 27, 2006)
Pope Wants to Keep Meeting With Cardinals (Zenit 21/3/06)
Benedict XVI Recalls John Paul II's Last Message (Zenit 21/3/06)
Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass for All Workers (Zenit 21/3/06)
Papal Address to Italian Christian Executives (Zenit 21/3/06)

29 Mar 2006