Pope to Discuss China Strategy

( [email protected] ) Jan 16, 2007 05:04 PM EST

Pope Benedict XVI is reportedly expected to hold a meeting for the Roman Catholic Church’s strategy in China.

The meeting places emphasis on strained Sino-Vatican relations after Beijing consecrated several bishops last year without papal approval, according to I-media a French agency that often reports on Vatican affairs.

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen, 75, an outspoken critic on Beijing’s control of China’s Catholic Church, announced last week through a spokesperson that he intended to attend the meeting.

Last week, the Holy See in a speech paid tribute to Christians persecuted for their faith in an apparent reference to China’s underground Catholic church, which claims 10 million followers loyal to him.

Official figures provided by Chinese authorities show four million followers, however.

Beijing, which severed diplomatic ties with the Vatican in 1951, has insisted that to re-establish ties the Vatican must end its recognition of Taiwan and not interfere with Chinese internal affairs.

The Catholic Church in China remains divided between the underground church loyal to the Pope and state-approved churches, which reject papal control but sees the Pope as a figurehead.