Hopes Raised for Change in China´s Policy on Religions

BEIJING, NOV. 12, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Chinese government may consider changes in its religious policy at a conference this month, the Compass agency reported.

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The Christian news agency´s report on the upcoming religious-affairs conference was based on statements by a senior Chinese «house church» leader in late October.

Government officials in the Religious Affairs Bureau have reportedly approached several house-church leaders to bring about a rapprochement.

These leaders have been asked to influence house-church members to consider official registration and to drop what the government sees as their confrontational approach, Compass reported.

At least one leader politely declined to cooperate, fearing that he would become a tool for government manipulation.

Several house church leaders report some easing of pressure since the summer. Possible reasons include China´s joining the World Trade Organization, and Beijing´s obtaining the right to host the 2008 Olympics.

The Chinese government has also softened its attitude toward the Vatican after John Paul II publicly apologized Oct. 24 for past mistakes made by Catholic missionaries in China.

Although the Vatican´s continued recognition of Taiwan is still a major point of controversy, Beijing´s conciliatory response is in marked contrast to the hostile rhetoric it employed last year when the Pope canonized 120 martyrs of China.

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