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'National Assembly' could fuel tensions among Chinese Catholics

Catholic World News - November 17, 2010

The Chinese government plans to call a meeting of the National Assembly of Catholic Representatives before the end of this year, putting additional pressure on Catholics to recognize the authority of that government-backed body rather than the Holy See, the AsiaNews service reports.

The National Assembly claims to be a “sovereign body” ruling the Catholic Church in China. It is controlled by the Catholic Patriotic Association, another government-backed body. Pope Benedict XVI, in his letter to the Chinese Church, said that such institutions are incompatible with the Catholic faith, and urged loyal Catholics not to participate in their affairs or recognize their authority.

However Catholics may be under heavy pressure to attend the National Assembly meeting; bishops have expressed concern that if they fail to participate, their congregations will suffer reprisals. The meeting could exacerbate divisions between Catholics who cooperate with the "official" Church and those in the "underground" Church who remain staunchly loyal to the Holy See.

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