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The BBC's David Willey
"The announcement in Beijing has set relations back to zero"
 real 28k

Tuesday, 4 January, 2000, 15:18 GMT
Chinese church 'snubs' Pope

pope The Pope has named his own bishops in China

The Vatican says efforts to restore relations with the Catholic Church in China have suffered a set back following Beijing's decision to ordain three new bishops.

The Chinese church, which does not recognise the Pope's authority, announced that new bishops loyal to the communist government would be ordained on Thursday - the same day Pope John Paul II will ordain 12 new bishops in Rome.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro Valls said: "I must express the surprise and regret of the Holy See.

"This decision comes at a time when rumours from different sources led us to look forward to a normalisation of ties between the Vatican and Beijing."

No country, including the Vatican, can interfere in China's internal affairs
Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao
The Vatican has had no diplomatic links with communist China since it closed its Beijing embassy in 1951.

China has said the Holy See's diplomatic links with Taiwan were an insurmountable obstacle to re-establishing links, prompting a top Vatican diplomat to say it could rethink its ties with Taiwan.

Correspondents said the move was a snub to the Pope, and an indication that recent attempts to restore links between China and the Vatican were unlikely to succeed.

'Internal affair'

An official from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association told Reuters news agency that the three bishops to be ordained were Su Changshan, 73, Lu Xingping, 35, and Zhan Silu, 39.

Su and Zhan would replace elderly bishops, while Lu would replace Liu Yuanren, president of China's national conference of bishops, the official said.

A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the ordinations, but said that religious matters were China's internal affair.

"We believe that no country, including the Vatican, can interfere in China's internal affairs, including through religious means," said ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao.

Chinese officials put membership of the state church at four million, while the Vatican said up to eight million more worship in secret and recognise the Pope.

John Paul II has named his own bishops and cardinals in China, some of whom lived in exile.

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See also:
10 Aug 99 |  Asia-Pacific
China 'blocks Pope visit'
06 Nov 99 |  South Asia
Pope urges spread of Catholicism

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