The Bishop of Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen has visited his hometown of Shanghai at the invitation of mainland authorities. Bishop Zen, who was banned from China in 1998, met Shanghai's Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during his three-day trip last week, the South China Morning Post has reported. Church officials have said it is hoped the trip marks the start of improved relations between the Church and state. Currently China only allows Catholics to worship in state-sanctioned churches, and bans all contact with the Vatican. So far it has allowed Hong Kong's 300,000 Catholics to practise their faith freely, in accordance with the high degree of autonomy promised under the territory's mini-constitution. But there had been fears that these fears could be eroded under proposed new legislation. Bishop Zen is the first head of Hong Kong's Catholics to visit the mainland since Hong Kong's handover from Britain in 1997. The South China Morning Post reported that he said: "I appreciate the sincerity and friendliness the mainland authorities have shown and I hope this is the first step towards more communication. At least trust still exists between us. "They said there were no conditions attached to the visit, and I made it clear that I am not going to be silenced and will continue to speak out after I come back."
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