Vatican, China work to improve relations

Foreign ministers hold secret meeting

Posted: Friday, September 02, 2005

ROME (AP) — Pope Benedict XVI conferred last week with Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay organization that has worked behind the scenes to help the Vatican and China improve relations.

The community helped arrange a secret meeting be-tween Vatican and Chinese representatives. Xuefeng Yu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy to Italy, confirmed that a Chinese foreign ministry official met the Vatican’s foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, April 26, two days after Benedict was installed as pope.

Sant’Egidio also brought a lower-level Chinese delegation to the Vatican last year that raised the prospect of a papal visit, Riccardi disclosed in an Italian magazine.

Benedict is eager to bring China’s estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome’s wing. In June, a new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai was consecrated with tacit approval from the Vatican.

China says it’s willing to improve relations but the Vatican must sever ties with Taiwan.

In China, Catholic worship is legal only in government-controlled churches that reject papal authority over appointment of bishops and priests. Millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome that are frequently harassed.

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