Mon, May 16, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Vatican looks to Olympics to improve ties with China

AP , VATICAN CITY

Beijing's hosting the 2008 Olympics could strengthen relations between China and the Holy See, a Vatican cardinal says, following Pope Benedict XVI's overture to China.

The road to normalizing relations between Beijing and the Vatican City is a long and uphill path, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran said at a conference in Rome on Saturday.

"But if they give us the possibility, we're ready tomorrow," said Tauran, a former Vatican diplomat.

The Italian news agency Apcom quoted him as expressing hopes that the 2008 summer games could help heal tensions.

"The experts on Chinese affairs contend that the Olympic games could exert a certain effect. They say that China, to come off looking good, might take some step," Tauran was quoted as saying. "I hope so. Also for [the sake of] Chinese Catholics."

In a move which was widely interpreted as applying to China, Benedict on Thursday invited countries which don't have diplomatic ties with the Vatican to latch official relations soon.

While he didn't name countries, the ambassadors he was addressing and Cardinal Pio Laghi, a Vatican diplomatic troubleshooter, said the Pope clearly meant China.

Beijing's communist government ordered Chinese Catholics to break ties with the Vatican in 1951. Catholic churches in China are run by a government-sanctioned group which recognizes the Pope but has no formal relations with the Vatican and appoints its own bishops.

China's ambassador to Italy, Dong Jinyi (董津義), said his country appreciated the pope's comments, Rome daily Il Messaggero reported on Saturday.

"But we won't go anywhere if the Vatican continues to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan. For us, it's a vital question. We're talking about the territorial integrity of China," the diplomat said.

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