Monday, August 08, 2005

Chinese seminary instructors attend papal audience

Vatican, Aug. 04 ( - Pope Benedict XVI (bio - news) welcomed a group of priests from China to his public audience on Wednesday, August 3.

The delegation of Chinese priests at the papal audience, and the Pope's hearty welcome, was a fresh indication of Vatican efforts to improve ties with Beijing. Since Pope Benedict's election in April, there have been repeated signs of Vatican efforts to expand the freedom of the Church in China-- alternating, in a confusing pattern, with fresh indication of the Chinese government's hostility toward the "underground" Catholic Church.

The 28 Chinese priests who attended the papal audience were seminary teachers and administrators who had come to visit Rome after a week of training at a seminary in Germany. According to the AsiaNews service, the priests were affiliated with the "official" Church, approved by the government. AsiaNews reported that the "official" seminaries in China have 1,000 students training for the priesthood, while the "underground" Church has about 800 seminarians.

"I greet with particular affection the group of priests from China," Pope Benedict said, as he acknowledged different groups attending the Wednesday audience. The Chinese clerics, who were seated at the front of the crowd, responded by standing and singing a hymn. The papal audience was held at the Vatican, with Pope Benedict traveling by helicopter from his summer residence in Castel Gandolfo to speak to about 6,000 people.

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