In the recent Vatican-Beijing efforts to forge relations, Pope Benedict XVI greeted a group of priest from China on Wednesday who was in his general audience.
This is the first time that a pope had greeted members of official church of China at the general audience, an indication of the efforts of both parties in attempt to forge better relations. According the AsiaNews, the 28 priests who were present are members of Beijing¡¦s official Catholic Patriotic Association- the religious sector officiated by the Chinese government.
"I greet with particular affection the group of priests from China," the Pope said during the greeting. In response, the priest, dressed in black and white collars, stood, sang a hymn, and waved to the pope.
Since 1951, China has severed its ties with the Vatican and outlawed worship except in government-registered churches. Yet millions of Chinese who claimed to be royal to Rome, worshipped in unofficial congregations, which over the years has been monitored and persecuted by the police.
However, since the installment of new pope Benedict, Vatican and Beijing has been taking steps to form ties. The recent installment of new auxiliary bishops in Shanghai and Xi¡¦an tacitly approved by Vatican were seen as new steps toward restoring the two parties¡¦ relationship. In spite of this, the recent beating and arrest of underground Catholic priest continues to place an enigma on the notion that China would be opened to greater religious freedom.
The prelate who introduced the priests at the audience said that they were from China and were taking part in a course on seminary formation.