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Home >> China
UPDATED: 08:14, April 04, 2005
Chinese Catholics mourn for Pope, better ties with Vatican hoped
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Chinese Catholics Sunday joined their counterparts in other countries to grieve over the death of Pope John Paul II, while the Chinese Foreign Ministry extends governmental condolence over the loss of the pontiff, hoping for improving relations between China and Vatican.

Two Chinese Catholic groups, the Catholic Patriotic Association of China and the Chinese Catholic Bishops College, sent a telegram to the Vatican Sunday morning to express condolences on behalf of more than 5 million Catholics in China.

The Pope died at the age of 84 in Vatican on Saturday after suffering heart and kidney failure.

"It is very sorrowful to know that Pope John Paul II has passed away at the call of God, to rest in Lord for good," the telegraph reads. "It will be a great loss for the pastoral and evangelical works of the Universal Church."

"We sincerely express our deep condolences, on behalf of more than 5 million clergies and faithfuls of the Catholic Church in China, and pray God grant him an eternal reward," it reads.

In their Sunday mass, Catholics in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai and other cities mourned for the Pope.

Nearly 10,000 Catholics attended masses held in five major Catholic churches in the national capital. Priest Zhao Jianmin, also vice chairman of Beijing Catholic Patriotic Association, said he was "shocked and deeply sorry" to learn the Pope's death early Sunday morning and called it a "huge loss" to the world Catholic cause.

Zhao, who met with the late Pope when he studied in Belgium years ago, said the Pope had demonstrated a marked interest in Chinese culture and had shown respect for the Chinese nation.

Expressing condolences, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said in a statement Sunday that the country is willing to improve relations with Vatican on condition that the Vatican terminate "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and promise that it will not interfere in China's internal affairs, including any intervention under the pretext of religious affairs.

China hopes the Vatican, under the leadership of a new Pope, will create favorable conditions for the development of China-Vatican relations, Liu said.

Pope John Paul II had once apologized for the wrongs against the Chinese people committed by some Catholic missionaries during the colonial period, and the Pope had said that the Vatican had religious ties with Chinese Catholics which should not tamper the unity of the Chinese nation or impair China's independence and sovereignty in any way.

John Paul was born Karol Wojtyla on May 18, 1920, in Wadowice, Poland. He was educated at Jagiellonian University in Cracow, Poland, and at the Angelicum in Rome.

He was ordained priest in 1946, became titular bishop in 1958, and later served as vicar-general, vicar and archbishop of the Archdiocese of Cracow.

He was created cardinal by Pope Paul VI in 1967. In October 1978, he was elected Pope, the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

In the last days of the Pope's life, the Catholic Patriotic Association of China and the Chinese Catholic Bishops College extended good wishes for his health.

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