China has called on the Roman Catholic Church to attempt to improve relations with the East Asian country by adapting Catholicism to Chinese society.
China's head of religious affairs, Wang Zou'an, expressed hope Tuesday that the Vatican will "take actual steps to create beneficial conditions for improving relations" between the church and China, according to the state news agency Xinhua.
Wang's remarks were made at a meeting of China's official Catholic Church in Beijing.
China severed relations with the Holy See -- the Catholic Church's supreme body of government -- in 1951, two years after the Communists assumed power in China. The Vatican has maintained official ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own.
Since the split, China has maintained that the party-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association has the authority to appoint Chinese bishops. The Holy See insists that right belongs only to the pope. The dispute is one of the primary reasons Sino-Vatican relations have not been re-established.
Wang said the Chinese government hoped the Vatican would adopt a more flexible and pragmatic approach and take action to improve relations. He did not specify what actions the Chinese government would like the Vatican to take.
Prospects of an agreement between the two sides suffered a setback last week when a Chinese government-supported bishop who was excommunicated by the Vatican participated in the ordination of new bishops.
The Vatican said last week it was convinced Catholics in China are "waiting with trepidation for positive signals that would help them have trust" in discussions between the two sides "and hope for a future of unity and harmony."
The ruling Communist Party in China has long been concerned that opposition to the party could be spread by religious and other civic organizations outside its control.