US backs Vatican effort to improve relations with China

.- The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See said one of his priorities is to support the Vatican's efforts for improved relations with and greater religious freedom in China.

"As the U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, I intend to make it a priority to support the Holy See on this issue," said Ambassador Francis Rooney in a statement Monday, one day after President George W. Bush told Chinese leaders in Beijing to expand religious, political and social liberties. Bush also urged the leadership to invite Vatican officials to discuss religious freedom, reported the Associated Press.

"China has a great opportunity following the president's visit to become more open to the Holy See and to work toward greater freedoms for its Catholic citizens and indeed for those of all faiths," said Rooney.

Vatican-China relations were severed in 1951. Soon after Pope Benedict XVI was inaugurated, he indicated that he wanted to restore diplomatic relations. China has responded by saying the Vatican must not interfere in China's internal affairs and must sever ties with Taiwan.

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