Pope Francis has urged Catholics in China to remain loyal to the Vatican, whose authority is challenged by China's Communist rulers.
During his weekly address Wednesday in St. Peter's Square, the pope called for prayers so Chinese Catholics can live their lives "in the service of their country and fellow citizens," in a way that is consistent with their faith.
China's government does not have diplomatic relations with the Vatican. The two sides have regularly clashed over China's influence over an estimated eight to 12 million Catholics.
Chinese Catholics are allowed to worship only in state-sanctioned churches, although many belong to underground churches that are loyal to Rome.
The Vatican has not had formal diplomatic relations with China since 1951, two years after the communist government assumed power. The church says it is willing to open talks with Beijing on setting up diplomatic relations. But China says the Vatican must first relinquish its recognition of Taiwan, the self-administered island that China considers part of its domain.