CHINA-ART-ADV01 06-29 dk
Pope encourages unity
Pope Benedict XVI today invited all Roman Catholics in China to unite under his jurisdiction and urged the government in Beijing to restore diplomatic ties and permit religious freedom.
China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the officially atheist Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in the government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops. Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations that remiined loyal to Rome.
In a letter Benedict insisted on his right to appoint bishops, but said he trusted that an agreement could be reached with the Beijing authorities on nominations. The Vatican would like to have a formula similar to the one it has with Vietnam, another communist country, where the Vatican proposes a few names and the government selects one.