China bishop hopes diplomatic relations between Holy See and Beijing to be re-established

A Chinese bishop prevented by the government from attending a Vatican meeting said in a message to his fellow bishops that he hoped diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Beijing could be re-established, officials said Tuesday.

He sent a message of greetings to the Synod of Bishops, the Oct. 2-23 meeting of the world's bishops,that was read aloud Tuesday in the synod hall by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican's secretary of state.

In the short message, which was written in Latin, the bishop said he was sorry he couldn't attend the meeting and expressed hope that the Vatican and China could re-establish diplomatic relations, said the Rev. John Bartunek, a synod spokesman.

Pope Benedict XVI invited four Chinese bishops to attend the synod - part of his efforts to reach out to China and bring its 12 million Catholics under Rome's wing. But none was allowed by the government to come.

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, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome, the AP reports.

Benedict has been seeking to unify the two churches, and his invitation to the four bishops was seen as part of that initiative. A.M.

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