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China tells Vatican not to 'interfere'

Whilst returning from a trip to South Korea the Holy Father said after receiving a positive response to a telegram he sent Chinese leaders he would like to visit the country.

He said: "For sure! Tomorrow!

"We respect the Chinese people.

"The church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work."

But China reacted with a statement warning the Vatican against getting involved in religion.

The state-run Catholic Patriotic Association said: "China will always safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and it never allows foreign forces to interfere with religion. The Vatican should respect China in terms of the personnel of a diocese."

Relations between the Vatican and China are still very raw and there has been no official diplomatic links since 1951.

The Catholic Church in China is run by the state although there is a large underground church which answers to Rome.

China has repeatedly criticised the Vatican for its ties with Taiwan whilst The Holy See often speaks out about religious persecution in China.

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