04/01/2005, 00.00
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Best wishes but also accusations of interference levelled at the Pope

Beijing (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Chinese government expressed its best wishes for the Pope's speedy recovery but reiterated its traditional preconditions for establishing diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Chinese Catholics are instead praying for the Pope's health.

"We hope that the Pope recovers quickly," said in a press conference Liu Jianchao, a Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson.

The Chinese official used the occasion to reiterate his country's position towards the Vatican.

"We are prepared to establish diplomatic relations [with the Holy See], but the Vatican must stop interfering in our internal religious affairs", Mr Liu said

"The Vatican must also cut ties with Taiwan and recognise the People's Republic of China as the sole representative of China, including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan".

Chinese authorities only allow 'official', i.e. government-controlled church personnel to engage in religious activities and prevent full freedom of worship by persecuting bishops, priests and believers who do not register with the Office of Religious Affairs.

China's official news agency Xinhua this morning scrambled to publish the statement released by Vatican spokesperson Joaquin Navarro-Valls on John Paul II's worsening health conditions.

The Pope's condition was also the leading story in the world affairs section of the China Daily, Beijing's main daily newspaper.

During the recent Easter celebration, Chinese Catholics have prayed for the Pope's health, and many priests have called on the faithful to devote a few minutes every day in Eucharistic adoration on behalf of the Pope and his mission. (LF)

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