Chinese Official Comments on Vatican Invitation

Sees Gesture as «Friendly»

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HONG KONG, SEPT. 16, 2005 ( A Chinese government official said that the Vatican’s invitation to four mainland bishops to attend a synod in Rome has not been rejected, reported AsiaNews.

Ye Xiaowen, director of the State Bureau of Religious Affairs, commented after a religious ceremony Thursday in Hong Kong that the government is still negotiating with the Vatican, despite the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association’s expressed disappointment at the invitation.

The Patriotic Association chairman, Liu Bainian, criticized the Holy See for maintaining ties with Taiwan, and for releasing the invitation list without consulting with Beijing first.

Ye, however, said mainland Catholics saw Benedict XVI’s invitation as a «friendly gesture.»

«It is obviously a harmonious sign,» he said. «And it is still in the negotiating process.»

The prelates invited to the Oct. 2-23 synod in Rome are Archbishop Anthony Li Duan of Xian, Bishops Louis Jin Luxian of Shanghai and Luke Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang — all recognized by the government — and «underground» Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar.

Health considerations

Ye said it was likely that some of the bishops would not be able to make the journey due to age or ill health.

«One of them is also terminally ill,» he said, apparently referring to Archbishop Li Duan, who has cancer.

He also said he did not consider Bishop Wei of the «underground Church» a prelate.

In China, the government permits religious practice only with recognized personnel and in places registered with the Office of Religious Affairs and under the control of the Patriotic Association.

Faithful who are opposed to this control and who wish to obey the Pope are members of the «underground» Church.

Asked about the presence of representatives from Taiwan, Ye said Beijing did not want to see «two Chinas» or «one China, one Taiwan» in any international conference.

«It is their own business if Taiwanese bishops join the synod,» he said. «They have the right to go.»

Taiwan’s episcopal conference said it would send two representatives: Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, 81, of Kaohsiun, and Bishop Bosco Lin Chi-nan, 62, of Tainan.

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