Pope puts Chinese Catholic on path to beatification
THE Vatican has put a Chinese Catholic scholar who lived nearly five centuries ago on track for beatification.
The move will hardly be welcomed by a country that keeps an iron grip on all religious expression.
Paul Xu Guangqi, who lived from 1562 to 1633, was a scientist, astronomer and mathematician and collaborator of Italian Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci, who is also a candidate for beatification.
Vatican spokesman the Rev Federico Lombardi said the decision by the Vatican's sainthood congregation was a "beautiful light of hope for China today and tomorrow".
He said Xu's "exemplary life" shows there is no contradiction in being both Chinese and Catholic.
The announcement came in a message to Chinese Catholics last week from a special Vatican commission set up to study problems that Catholics loyal to the Pope face in China. It expressed its "sorrow for the trials" but said it "learnt with joy" that the diocese of Shanghai can start the beatification cause. There is no time limit on the beatification process -- the last formal step before possible sainthood. It can take years, with the Vatican requiring what it considers a miracle based on the candidate's intercession. Ricci's cause began in 1984.
Pope Benedict XVI has made improving relations with China a priority of his foreign policy, but a key stumbling block has been the Vatican's insistence on the Pope's right to appoint bishops. Beijing regards this as interference by a foreign entity.
China forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Vatican in 1951. Only state-backed churches are recognised, although millions of Chinese belong to unofficial congregations loyal to Rome.