BEIJING, July 2 (UPI) -- China's state-approved Catholics have welcomed the Vatican's overture to negotiate resuming diplomatic relations between the two sides.
The BBC reported Monday that the deputy head of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, Liu Bainian, hopes Pope Benedict's letter last week to the Chinese authorities calling for renewed relations will improve ties between the communist state and Roman Catholic Church.
The Chinese government, however, publicly criticized the Vatican's call for greater religious freedom in the country as interference on national matters by the church.
Diplomatic relations between the two sides broke down following the communists' takeover of China, but since then, Beijing has established a state-run Catholic church which has over 4 million followers. Bishops to the state church are appointed by Beijing officials, rather than by the Vatican.