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Pope urges China to allow religious freedom

pope December 3, 1996
Web posted at: 9:30 p.m. EST (0230 GMT)

VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- Speaking at a special Mass, Pope John Paul II Tuesday appealed to the Chinese government to legalize the Roman Catholic Church and allow its followers to worship openly.

Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship openly only if they belong to the state-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association. The association, which claims to have 4 million members, appoints its own bishops, and does not recognize the Pope's authority. The "underground" church is believed to have several million members.

The Pope's Mass at the Vatican marked the 70th anniversary of the ordination of two Chinese monks and the 50th anniversary of the establishment of a Roman Catholic Church hierarchy in China. The pope also urged the underground church to reconcile with the state-run church and reunite with Rome.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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