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Report: China Plans Church Breakup

November 9, 1999

VATICAN CITY (AP) _ The Vatican’s missionary news service said Tuesday it had obtained a policy paper in which China’s communist leadership looks ahead to establishing relations with the Vatican _ an act to be followed by a full-scale crackdown on China’s underground Roman Catholic Church.

The Fides missionary news agency quoted from what it said was a 16-page private paper of the Communist Party’s policy-setting Central Committee, dated Aug. 16.

The Vatican and China have major differences on which of the two should command the highest allegiance in the lives of China’s estimated 10 million Catholics.

China has frequently imprisoned priests and worshippers who remain loyal to the Vatican and refuse to participate in the state-approved church, set up in the 1950s. China’s leaders accuse the Vatican of seeking to interfere in China’s internal affairs on the pretext of religion.

The alleged policy paper cited by Fides upholds the primacy of the state-approved church after any establishment of relations and foresees the forcible breakup of the underground church.

``The Vatican will try to take advantage of the normalization of relations between China and the Vatican to deny the right of independence, sovereignty and autonomy in the (state-approved) church and work to regain the power of the Catholic Church in China,″ Fides quoted the policy paper as saying.

Those who fall short of full compliance to the state-approved church will be sentenced to serve time in re-education or labor camps, according to the alleged document.

It also details wide-scale relocation to keep leaders of the underground church from gaining power within the state-approved church. That includes dismantling convents and seminaries, the Catholic news service said, citing the paper.

The account gives no time frame for establishing relations, and nothing in the Fides account suggested a definite decision had been made to do so.

The report did not say how the missionary news agency obtained the document. Vatican spokesman the Rev. Ciro Benedettini refused comment on it.

In an editorial, Fides said the document ``confirms the almost spasmodic interest of China in relations with the Holy See, but also confirms the obtuseness of the regime in understanding full religious liberty.″

News reports in recent weeks suggested a breakthrough in talks on establishing relations. The Vatican responding by saying there was no accord to announce.

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