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The BBC's David Willey in Rome
"Relations between the Vatican and China reached a new low"
 real 28k

Sunday, 1 October, 2000, 17:45 GMT 18:45 UK
China condemns new saints
The ceremony at St Peter's creating the first Chinese saints
The canonisation coincided with China's national day
The Chinese government has condemned Pope John Paul's creation of the first Chinese Christian saints, describing them as sinners, guilty of raping and looting.

This is a flagrant provocation against the Chinese people

Chinese foreign ministry
The foreign ministry said in a statement that some of those canonised by the Vatican had committed unforgivable crimes against the people of China.

In a ceremony in Rome, the Pope canonised 87 Chinese Roman Catholics and 33 European missionaries who died in China defending their Christian faith.

He said this was not the moment for historical analysis, and the Catholic church had simply intended to honour the Chinese people.


This tapestry hung outside St Peter's commemorates the Chinese martyrs
This tapestry commemorates the Chinese martyrs
However in its statement carried by the official Chinese news agency, the foreign ministry expressed its "utmost indignation" at the Pope's move, which it called a "flagrant provocation".

"Some Catholic missionaries were the very perpetrators and accomplices in the colonialist and imperialist invasion of China," the statement went on.

Their canonisation "has severely damaged" the Vatican's efforts to normalise relations with Beijing, the foreign ministry said.

China's official Catholic church
China's official Catholic church joined in the criticism
The state-sponsored Catholic Church in China does not recognise the Pope's authority.

The head of the church, Bishop Fu Tieshan, said the choice of the country's national day for the canonisation ceremony was itself a humiliating insult.

Thanks for communism

He later conducted a mass to give thanks for 51 years of communist rule.

The Vatican says the date was chosen not for political reasons but because it marks the feast of St Theresa of Lisieux, the patron saint of missionaries.

All those canonised by the Pope were killed between 1600 and 1930 - well before the communists took power and broke off relations with the Vatican.

Pope John Paul II
The Pope said it was not the moment for historical analysis
However the vast majority died during the Opium Wars and Boxer Rebellion, which China glorifies as heroic resistance to imperialist forces.

Thousands of ethnic Chinese attended the canonisation ceremony, including 10 bishops from Taiwan and one from Hong Kong, but no representatives from the mainland.

The row follows an apparent improvement in relations between the Vatican and Beijing, which China resulted in a close aide of the Pope's visiting China last month.

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See also:

01 Oct 00 | Europe
Pope canonises Chinese martyrs
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26 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China attacks Vatican saints plan
25 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Vatican protests Chinese arrests
20 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
China riled by Vatican martyrs plan
18 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
Bishop arrested in China
20 Jun 00 | Asia-Pacific
China sets conditions for papal visit
06 Jan 00 | Asia-Pacific
China defies Pope
06 Nov 99 | South Asia
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