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LEAD: Vatican, China hold talks in Beijing on diplomatic ties: report.

HONG KONG, June 27 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING COMMENTS FROM H.K. DIOCESE IN 4TH GRAF)

A high-level Vatican delegation is in Beijing for negotiations with Chinese Foreign Ministry officials to consider the establishment of diplomatic relations, the South China Morning Post reported Tuesday.

It is the first time senior Vatican officials have visited the mainland on a formal diplomatic mission since 2000, when negotiations between the two sides halted following Beijing's protest against the Vatican's canonization of 120 Chinese martyrs, the daily reported.

It said the Vatican delegation arrived in Beijing on Sunday for a week of talks.

A Hong Kong Roman Catholic diocese spokesman said the delegation will meet with officials from other ministries as well.

Cardinal Joseph Zen, head of the Hong Kong Roman Catholic diocese, said it is significant that the Vatican has been invited to hold talks on Chinese soil.

''I don't know about the details of the discussions but I do not expect the talks will progress very quickly. Anyway, it is a good start,'' Zen was quoted as saying.

China's state-sanctioned China Patriotic Catholic Association, which oversees the church's official operation in the country, facilitated the ordinations of two bishops last month without Pope Benedict XVI's blessing, leading the Vatican to deem them illicit.

Unofficial talks between the Vatican and Beijing has been ongoing in the past few years but major barriers remain.

China wants the Vatican to sever its ties with Taiwan and refrain from interfering in what China regards as its internal affairs, including the right to pick bishops.

The Vatican is the only European state that still holds diplomatic ties with Taiwan, a self-ruled island that communist-ruled China claims as an inseparable part of its territory.

China severed ties with the Vatican shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Geographic Code:9CHIN
Date:Jul 3, 2006
Words:300
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