Annual meeting of Chinese Catholic representatives begins

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Beijing, Dec 27 (IANS) The ninth National Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives, a meeting held every six years, started in Beijing on Tuesday, according to a State Administration for Religious Affairs statement.

The meeting, which will have participants from China’s state-controlled “official” Church, as well as the semi-clandestine Catholic Church that answers to the Vatican, will conclude on Thursday, Efe news reported.

The gathering is expected to serve to renew the top leadership of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, as well as the Chinese Episcopal Assembly.

The last such conference in 2010 sparked protests from the Vatican, which believed members of the non-official Chinese Church, loyal to itself, had been forced to attend the event.

This year’s meeting comes at a time of improving China-Vatican relations, which had been officially non-existent for over six decades.

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“The Chinese Catholic Church will hold its ninth national congress from December 27 to 29, which is believed to help Catholicism better adapt to and integrate into the Chinese culture and society,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said during a press briefing on Monday.

She also stressed Beijing’s “sincere” wish to improve ties with the Vatican, stating that the country “is willing to work alongside the Vatican to make new headway in conducting bilateral constructive dialogues and improving bilateral relations.”

A total of 365 Catholic delegates from across the country, in addition to representatives from the government and other religions, are expected to attend the conference.

Bishop Fang Xingyao, chairman of the Communist Party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said during the event’s inaugural speech that the three-day event will review the work done by Chinese Catholics in the past six years and set targets for the future.

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