China: priests of official church want to be united with pope

The bishop of Hong Kong said Wednesday that bishops from China's official church want to be united with the pope, saying those ordained without Rome's approval are no longer accepted by the faithful.

Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun spoke about the situation of China's divided church to the Synod of Bishops, the Oct. 2-23 gathering of the world's bishops to offer Pope Benedict XVI advice on running the church, the AP reports.

"After long years of forced separation, the overwhelming majority of bishops of the official church have been legitimized by the magnanimity of the Holy Father," he said. "Especially in recent years it is becoming ever clearer that the bishops ordained without the approval of the Roman pontiff are accepted neither by the clergy nor by the faithful."

The pope had invited four mainland Chinese bishops to attend the synod as part of his efforts to unify China's divided church. But they weren't allowed by the Beijing government to attend and their assigned seats at the synod have remained empty.

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 government-controlled churches. Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.

Benedict has tried to reach out to Beijing, saying he wants to establish diplomatic relations and bring all of China's Catholics under Rome's wing. A.M.

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