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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

PostHeaderIcon Foreign clergy not invited to Beijing Olympics

"China is a country with religious freedom and respects every religion," boasts the Web site of Beijing's Olympic games organizers. Expecting an influx of God-fearing athletes at next year's event, they will even cater to their spiritual needs. But China's wariness of foreign clergy is hard to overcome.

In line with the International Olympic Committee's requirements, officials are setting up a religious center in the Olympic village. Athletes will be able to attend services of their own faiths and seek counseling from chaplains. But, breaking with usual practice, China has not invited foreigners to serve as chaplains. The staff at the center will belong to China's state- approved churches.

Catholic priests from overseas were bound to be a problem. There have been some signs of a thaw in relations with the Vatican. Last week Chinese clergy in the southern city of Guangzhou ordained the fourth bishop loyal to the Vatican to be appointed in China since September. But China has no diplomatic ties with the Vatican and several Catholic priests are in prison for refusing to cooperate with the state-controlled church.

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