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China decries Vatican invitation to four bishops

September 11, 2005

China decries Vatican invitation to four bishops

By Isabel Reynolds

BEIJING (Reuters) - China, which bans its Catholics from recognising the Pope, has turned down a Vatican invitation to four Chinese bishops to go to Rome, saying it showed no respect. 

Beijing has not had diplomatic ties with the Vatican since 1951, two years after the Communist takeover in China, and insists that relations cannot be resumed unless Rome severs links with self-ruled Taiwan, which Beijing claims as its own. 

The four bishops invited to Rome were on a list of prelates from around the world that the Pope had named to be members of next month's synod, the Vatican said on Thursday. 

China, which bans its Catholics from recognising the Pope, has turned down a Vatican invitation to four Chinese bishops to go to Rome, saying it showed no respect. A Chinese Catholic man seen reciting a prayer at the state-sanctioned Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai in this April 2005 file photo. (REUTERS/Claro Cortes IV)
"The act (invitation) goes against the original good intention of the Pope and shows no respect for China's 5 million Catholics, bishops, the Chinese Catholic Bishops College and the China Patriotic Catholic Association and for the decision-making power of the two Chinese Catholic groups," a spokesman for the two groups was quoted by Xinhua news agency as saying in a report late on Saturday. 

The China Patriotic Catholic Association is the state-backed Catholic church. Catholics who recognise the Vatican are forced to worship underground. 

"If the Holy See has deep sincerity to improve China-Vatican relations, we hope they take real actions, rather than put up new barriers," the spokesman said. 

The four bishops are Anthony Li Duan of Xian, Aloysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai, Luke Li Jingfeng and Joseph Wei Jingyi. 

Li Duan and Jin were appointed by the government from the state-backed church and their appointments were later tacitly recognised by the Vatican. 

Li Jingfeng had been a member of the underground church but was later recognised by the Chinese government. Wei remains a member of the underground church. 

The Vatican estimates it has about 8 million followers in China, compared with about 5 million who follow the association. 

The Vatican has regularly accused China of violating human rights and criticised the government for what it sees as the repression of religion. 

After his election in April, Pope Benedict said he hoped to establish diplomatic relations with countries that still had no formal ties with the Vatican, a clear reference to China, the only major power not to recognise the Pope. 

Beijing congratulated the Pope on his election, raising hopes in some quarters of a possible warming in relations. 

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