Sat, Sep 10, 2005 - Page 4 News List

Pontiff invites four Chinese bishops to Rome meeting


Pope Benedict XVI has named Chinese bishops from both the official and unofficial Catholic Churches to attend a meeting of the world's bishops -- yet another indication of his desire to bring together all Chinese Catholics under Rome's wing.

Of the 36 members of the synod, which will be held Oct. 2-23 in Rome, four come from China. Also named were the bishop of Hong Kong and a Taiwanese bishop, according to the list of participants released on Thursday by the Vatican.

At least one of the Chinese is a member of the underground church: Bishop Wei Jingyi (魏景義) from the northeastern city of Qiqihar. Wei served two, two-year terms in Chinese labor camps and last year was held for over a week by Chinese authorities before being released, Catholic monitoring groups reported at the time.

Shanghai Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian (金魯賢), of the official church, is also on the list. He recently consecrated an auxiliary bishop who was tacitly approved by both Rome and Beijing -- the first tangible indication of a thaw in relations under the new pope.

China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, shortly after the Chinese Communist Party took power. Worship is allowed only in 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. Many unofficial congregations hold services openly, but in some regions they are routinely harassed and their priests and bishops arrested.

Benedict has been reaching out to Beijing, clearly eager to bring China's estimated 12 million Catholics under Rome's wing.

The Reverend Bernardo Cervellera, a China expert, said Benedict's selections were significant because they showed that "for the Holy See, there is only one church" in China.

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