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Vatican to publish document for China's Catholics

world Updated: May 23, 2009 21:47 IST
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The Vatican said on Saturday it will publish a new document for Chinese Catholics as a follow-up to a 2007 letter that Pope Benedict XVI addressed to that community.

The document, written in a question-and-answer format like the Catechism of the Catholic Church, will summarize and elaborate on the contents of the pope's letter, the Vatican said in a statement. China did not directly respond to the letter, but officials in the state-sanctioned church have called it a positive step. The new document was prepared for the second anniversary of the letter and will be published in English and Chinese on the Vatican's Web site on Sunday.

China's officially atheistic Communist Party forced the country's Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951, and the two sides have not restored formal relations. Beijing sees the Vatican tradition of the pope naming his own bishops as interference in the country.

China appoints bishops for the state-sanctioned Catholic church. Still, many of the country's estimated 12 million Catholics worship in congregations outside the state-approved church and often suffer arrests and harassment.

Benedict has made the improvement of relations with Beijing a priority of his papacy. In his 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, he praised the underground church, but also urged the faithful to reconcile with followers of the official church.

On Saturday, the Vatican said the letter got a "highly favorable reception" from the local faithful and was becoming "a reliable point of reference for the resolution of the various problems that the Catholic community is" facing.