Friday, June 29, 2007

Pope's letter to the Chinese Catholics to be released Saturday

~from AP via International Herald

Pope Benedict XVI's eagerly awaited letter to Roman Catholics in China will be released on Saturday, the Vatican said, the pontiff's latest effort to reach out to Beijing and bring all of China's faithful into the Vatican's fold.

A Vatican statement issued Friday said the pope's letter — addressed to bishops, priests and lay faithful in China — would be released at noon Saturday (1000 GMT).

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 the government-controlled churches, which recognize the pope as a spiritual leader but appoint their own priests and bishops.

Millions of Chinese, however, belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.

Benedict has been reaching out to Beijing in an effort to restore diplomatic ties and unite China's estimated 12 million faithful. The government and the Vatican have been at loggerheads over the Vatican's insistence on naming bishops.

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