Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said this week that the Vatican considers both the government-approved 'Patriotic' Church in China and the 'underground' church are part of the Universal Church. Speaking after a ten-day visit to China, Cardinal Etchegaray, denied the existence of a divide between the two churches, saying: "There is only one Church with two faces. There is not one 'patriotic' Church and one 'underground' Church, one legal and the other protesting." The Australian Catholic news service CathNews report that an Australian Oblate priest, Fr John Wotherspoon, who lives in Zhaoqing in southern China, said that Cardinal Etchegaray received a cool reception during his visit, from members of the 'underground' church. He said they viewed him with suspicion because of his attempts to foster reconciliation between the two 'faces' of the Catholic Church in China. Fr Wotherspoon said he believes western media gives a distorted account of the Church in China because of its strong reliance on organisations such as the American-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, which is committed to promoting the cause of elements of the underground church that are hostile to the government. This week the Foundation reported that police in north-east China had raided a religious retreat and arrested about a dozen Catholic priests, while a church in the vicinity was demolished. Cardinal Etchegaray acknowledged that there have been setbacks in relations between the Holy See and Beijing. He expressed his hope for an end to harassment and persecution. At the same time, he acknowledged that Vatican officials had made mistakes in their dealings with China. He was apparently referring to the timing of the canonisation of 120 Chinese martyrs on 1 October 2000 which was a date observed in China as the most important national holiday. Source:VIS/CathNews
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