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Hong Kong Prelate: Vatican-China Compromise Possible

The Roman Catholic bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Zen, says the Vatican and China have begun talks aimed at repairing their strained relations, and that the church may offer concessions to Beijing on the issue of who has the right to appoint Catholic leaders in China.

The Vatican insists that only the pope can select Catholic bishops, but Zen says the church may soften its position by agreeing to consider China's nominees for such positions. However, Zen, who is in Rome Thursday, told an interviewer for Hong Kong's Cable TV that the church will not give Chinese authorities total control over such such appointments.

Diplomatic ties between the Vatican and the Beijing government were cut 55 years ago (1951), shortly after the Communist Party came to power in China.

Pope Benedict has named Zen a cardinal, the clerical rank known as "prince of the church". He is in Rome to be formally elevated to his new position Friday at the Vatican.

The issue of bishops' appointments is one of the central disputes between the Vatican and Beijing, which recognizes a state-controlled group as the country's only Catholic church.

China rejects the authority of the Vatican and allows Catholics to worship only in state-approved churches, which say they have four million followers. Millions of other Chinese, however, belong to unofficial Catholic congregations loyal to Rome.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP .