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China offers conditional olive branch to Vatican

by Antony Bushfield

A top state official said China would have "constructive dialogue" with the Church as long as followers agree to be loyal to Beijing and adaptions are made to "suit Chinese culture".

State media said a meeting of China's Catholic Church officials was taking place this week and that Wang Zuo'an, director of the State Administration for Religious Affairs, was there.

He is quoted as saying the Chinese government hoped that the Vatican could adopt a flexible and pragmatic attitude and take concrete actions to create favourable conditions for improving relations.

China severed relations with the Holy See in 1951 after the communists took over and the officially atheistic government closed churches and imprisoned priests, some for decades.

Worship is officially allowed only in state-authorised churches outside the Pope's authority, although many of China's estimated 12 million Catholics are thought to attend underground churches.

Mr Wang stressed the importance of patriotism within religion and "pushing ahead with the sinicisation of Catholicism".

It's believed the communist state fears its reign could be brought down by Christianity if it gains any more followers.

In May last year President Xi Jinping called for religions to adapt to Chinese society, which he termed the "sinicisation of religion".

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