Pope says he wants to visit China - HK daily
Hong Kong, Mar 28: Pope Benedict wants to visit China but says the timing of any trip is up to God and he has urged a prominent campaigner for democracy in Hong Kong to continue the fight, a newspaper reported today.
Asked by media mogul Jimmy Lai during a Vatican audience if he would visit China, ''the Holy Father said he wanted to come, but God would decide when'', Hong Kong's South China Morning Post quoted Lai as saying.
Beijing has had no ties with the Vatican since 1951 and only allows Catholics in China to worship at state-backed churches that do not recognise the authority of the Pope.
The Vatican estimates, however, that it has about 8 million followers in China who worship in the ''underground church'', compared with some 5 million who follow the official ''patriotic'' Catholic association.
The Pope urged Martin Lee, a founder of Hong Kong's Democratic Party which has been fighting for universal suffrage in the former British colony, to continue working for democracy, the newspaper said.
Lai and Lee were in Rome for last week's elevation of Hong Kong bishop Joseph Zen to the rank of cardinal.
Zen, who has been a vocal critic of China's curbs on religious freedom, introduced Lee as ''a legislator fighting for democracy in Hong Kong'', the newspaper said.
''The Holy Father said: 'Do continue','' Lee was quoted as saying.
Beijing has insisted that diplomatic ties cannot be resumed unless the Vatican first severs its links with Taiwan, the self-governed island democracy of 23 million which Beijing considers Chinese territory.