China's state-controlled Catholic Church praised Pope Benedict’s letter to Chinese Catholics and voiced hope that the Vatican and Beijing would soon be able to establish formal relations, reported the AFP.
"The pope, through his papal letter has expressed his love and concern for China's believers ... This is different from earlier papal letters," Liu Bainian, deputy head of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, told reporters on Monday.
"Earlier papal letters were opposed to communism and the socialist system. They wanted to [punish] members of China's patriotic church. Now the situation is not the same. The pope wants to better understand China's Church," Liu said.
The papal letter, published on Saturday, expressed "good intentions," Liu said.
However, the following day, Liu was quick to criticize Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, who walked in a pro-democracy rally on Sunday, which coincided with the territory's handover anniversary events.
“If the Vatican supports someone like him, how can it win China's trust?" Liu was quoted as saying in the press.
Zen's behavior has caused concern among "public figures" about the consequences of having mainland bishops appointed by the Vatican, Liu reportedly said.
The cardinal joined tens of thousands of demonstrators in the pro-democracy march Sunday, as China celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the handover of Hong Kong.