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China defends bishop appointments

By Staff
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BEIJING, May 4 (Reuters) China defended today its decision to appoint two Catholic bishops without the Pope's blessing, saying they were adhering to the wishes of a majority of worshippers.

Asked to comment on Pope Benedict's condemnation of the two appointments, China's Foreign Ministry issued its standard statement that the appointments strictly followed democratic processes and fully respected the wishes of a majority of followers.

''So the Vatican's comdemnation makes no sense,'' the ministry said in a statement.

''We hold a sincere attitude towards improving Sino-Vatican relations and have made active efforts. We hope the Vatican side can support a good environment for improvement of the relationship.'' Pope Benedict today said China's appointment of two Catholic bishops without the approval of the Vatican represented a ''grave violation of religious freedom''.

''The Holy Father learned the news with deep displeasure,'' the Vatican said in an unusually strongly worded statement.

The Vatican said it had received information bishops and priests in China had come under ''strong pressure and threats'' to take part in the ordinations.

REUTERS SY BD1543

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