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Associated Press
Vatican City – Pope Benedict XVI said Friday the Vatican is willing to have “serene and constructive” talks with Chinese authorities to solve the problems of the Catholic community in the country.
Benedict recalled a letter he sent to all Catholics in China in June, in which he praised the underground faithful but urged them to reconcile with followers in the official church.
“With this letter, I wanted to express both my deep spiritual affection for all Catholics in China and a cordial esteem for the Chinese people,” the pontiff said in his traditional holiday remarks to the prelates who run Vatican offices.
In the letter, the pope added, “I have indicated the willingness of the Holy See for a serene and constructive dialogue with the civil authorities with the goal of finding a solution to the various problems of the Catholic community.”
Benedict said that Chinese Catholics received the letter with “joy and gratitude” and said he hoped it would “bear the hoped-for fruits.”
This year, the pope has stepped up efforts to improve church relations with China.
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 state-backed churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.
Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations that are not registered with the authorities.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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