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Chinese cardinal says Vatican should take a harder line with China

.- Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong says he believes it is time for the Vatican to change its strategy with China and take a more uncompromising line as it works toward establishing diplomatic relations with the communist country.

Cardinal Zen was in Rome last week for a two-day conference at the Vatican on the Church in China. The 75-year-old cardinal told the Associated Press that he asked the Pope during this visit to Rome to let him retire as Hong Kong's bishop so he can focus on helping the Vatican establish ties with China.

The cardinal told the AP that the change in strategy was necessary because the Vatican accepted compromises over the years, "which in the beginning were good and necessary, but after so many years we can see there is a bad side effect."

He says the Vatican should take a firm line with the government-controlled church when it tries to impose conditions or limitations on formation in seminaries.

"Maybe people don't like to take a hard line, but I would say clearer lines" are needed, he said. The people of China are expecting from the Pope “clear direction,” he added.

The cardinal told the AP he believes the upper echelons of China's government may be more ready for change than the state-sanctioned church.

The AP report cites various sources which indicate that 17 underground bishops have disappeared, been arrested or detained in the last month. Twenty priests have been arrested, and at least five, detained on Dec. 27 in Hebei, are still in prison.

"The foreign office is more interested in establishing diplomatic relations and the higher authority has a more international perspective," Cardinal Zen was quoted as saying. "So they must understand that a normalization of relations between Beijing and the Holy See may be conducive to more prestige for the nation."

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