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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

China's Catholics Hope for Vatican Ties

BEIJING -- As Chinese Catholics mourned the death of Pope John Paul II, the country's state-sanctioned church expressed hope Monday that his successor would try to end a half-century-old break between Beijing and Rome -- even as a U.S.-based religious foundation said a bishop of an underground Catholic church had been detained.

At the Chinese capital's Southern Cathedral, some 300 worshippers filled a memorial Mass led by the group that has run official Roman Catholic churches since communist leaders ordered Catholics to break ties with the Vatican in 1951.

"We hope the new pope can pick up the late pope's will to promote China-Vatican relations and realize a China visit," said the Reverend Ma Yinglin, general secretary of the China Patriotic Catholic Association, who conducted the service.

The group's vice chairman criticized the Vatican's diplomatic ties with rival Taiwan. Beijing claims Taiwan as its own territory and says it will not have official contact with the Vatican so long as it recognizes the self-ruled island as a sovereign government.

Ties with Taiwan "make it impossible to improve relations between China and the Vatican," the Reverend Sun Shangen said from the altar, surrounded by 35 priests in purple and white vestments. "This has caused Pope John Paul II to feel sorrow in his heart."

China permits worship only in such official churches. Millions more Catholics worship in unauthorized "house churches." The government frequently harasses and arrests followers and clergy of the underground church.