World News

Vatican seeks "respectful" dialogue with China

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - A special Vatican commission on China said on Thursday that the Holy See sought “respectful and constructive” dialogue with Beijing and unity for the country’s divided Church.

China’s 8 to 12 million Catholics are split between a church approved by the ruling Communist party and an “underground” church wary of government intervention.

The commission, which met with Pope Benedict after three days of meetings, urged “forgiveness and reconciliation within the Catholic community” in China, the Vatican said in a statement.

China will feature prominently during the Roman Catholic Church’s pre-Easter celebrations next week.

Hong Kong Archbishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, who was appointed by Rome, prepared the meditations for the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on Good Friday that he said will reflect the plight of China’s Catholics.

Pope Benedict will lead the Via Crucis, which commemorates Christ’s suffering and death, around the ancient ruins of the Colosseum in Rome.

“The invitation to the Chinese to be present in this Via Crucis is very significant, because they are truly a people that have suffered a lot and are suffering,” Zen Ze-kiun told RAI TG2 television news programme.

“Many suffer just for the faith. And now there is a harmony between the Passion of the Lord and the passion of my people.”

Pope Benedict has made improving ties with Beijing a major goal of his pontificate, and the commission reviewed reaction to the pontiff’s letter to China’s Catholics last year.

In the letter, the Pope also called for dialogue with Beijing, which severed ties with the Vatican two years after the Communist takeover in 1949.