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German Chancellor, Shanghai Bishop Discuss Religious Freedom

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the bishop of Shanghai on her last day in China to discuss religious freedom following her meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on M
( [email protected] ) May 23, 2006 12:24 PM EDT

German Chancellor Angela Merkel met with the bishop of Shanghai on her last day in China to discuss religious freedom following her meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao on Monday.

The first female Chancellor in Germany’s history spent a half-hour speaking with Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian of the state-sanctioned Catholic Church in Shanghai on Tuesday. During the chat, the 90-year-old bishop shared about his 27-years in Chinese jails and forced re-education camps, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP). The Bishop was arrested on Sept. 8, 1955, six years after the Communist party came to power.

"God is so good to me. I was in prison for such a long time, but He still gave me time to live," Jin told the German Chancellor, according to AFP during their tour of the Shanghai St. Ignatius cathedral.

Although Jin is recognized by the Vatican, the Bishop’s church has no relations with the Vatican.

Markel, the daughter of a Lutheran pastor, told reporters that the meeting was touching.

"The meeting was moving... the bishop knew a lot about me. He knew I was a Protestant," she said.

The female chancellor also noted, "I was very impressed with the bishop and how interested he is that good relations between the Vatican and the Chinese government exist," referring to the strife between Beijing and the Vatican. Relationship between the two recently worsened after China consecrated three bishops in April and May without the Holy See’s approval.

One day before her meeting with the Chinese bishop, Merkel met with President Hu and Premier Wen to speak about issues including religious freedom, human rights, nuclear weapons, and piracy. The chancellor said a future meeting on human rights is necessary and that she will continue to raise the issue with the Chinese government.

"In our view, human rights are an indivisible and important part of our cooperation," Merkel said, adding, however, that there remained "differing perceptions" between the two countries on human rights, according to The Star Online information portal.

Concluding her visit to China on Tuesday, Merkel gave a "cautiously optimistic assessment" of China’s human rights situation.

"I think the Chinese government listens very carefully to the topic of human rights," Merkel said Tuesday according to AFP.

"We must hold more talks. We have to be speaking the same language both at home and in China when it comes to human rights."