VATICAN CITY, Oct. 24 (AP) - Pope John Paul II called Wednesday for the restoration of diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China and apologized once again for any ``errors'' made by missionaries in the past.
``I feel deep sadness for those errors and limits of the past, and I regret that in many people these failings may have given the impression of a lack of respect and esteem for the Chinese people on the part of the Catholic Church, making them feel that the church was motivated by feelings of hostility towards China," he said.
"For all of this, I ask the forgiveness and understanding of those who may have felt hurt in some way by such actions on the part of Christians."
The pontiff went on to say that the ``present moment of profound disquiet in the international community calls for a fervent commitment on the part of everyone to creating and developing ties of understanding, friendship and solidarity among peoples.
"In this context, the normalization of relations between the People's Republic of China and the Holy See would undoubtedly have positive repercussions for humanity's progress."
China and the Vatican broke formal relations in 1951, when the Communists kicked out missionaries and forced Catholics to sever ties with Rome.
China now has a state-sanctioned Patriotic Church which doesn't recognize papal authority, including the right to name bishops.
Roman Catholics in China loyal to the pope have risked persecution, and some pro-pope clergy who lead the underground flock have been jailed.
John Paul's apology and his call for normalizing relations came in a message addressed to a symposium in Rome on a 17th-century Jesuit missionary who spent 28 years in China, the Rev. Matteo Ricci.
"The church must not be afraid of historical truth and she is ready - with deeply felt pain - to admit the responsibility of her children. This is true also with regard to her relationship, past and present, with the Chinese people."
A year ago, in the midst of a bitter dispute with China over the canonization of 120 missionaries killed in anti-Western and anti-church violence, John Paul offered a similar apology.
The pope has long wanted better relations with China. Last summer, when he met with U.S. President George W. Bush, the pontiff's aides asked the United States for help in establishing contacts with Beijing.
The Vatican maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. China forbids allegiance to the papacy and has demanded that the Vatican break ties with Taiwan as a condition for restoring relations.