Pope Benedict XVI is planning to send a letter at Easter to Catholics in China that could have wide-ranging implications for the church’s relationship with China’s leadership.According to the Rev. Bernardo Cervellera, an Italian expert on China who directs the Catholic news agency AsiaNews, the letter will provide long-requested guidance to Chinese bishops on how to respond to illicitly ordained bishops, as well as how to strengthen ties with the Patriotic Association and the Communist government.

The Chinese Communist government founded the Patriotic Association in 1957 to manage the administration and life of the Catholic Church in China, which is referred to as the “official church.” The underground church declares loyalty to Rome alone.

The Patriotic Association ordains its own bishops, questions seminarians on their knowledge of and allegiance to the religious policy of the government, controls Catholic publications, and administers the dioceses, including their finances.

It also regularly persecutes the underground church by imprisoning and torturing officials.

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Odd, with Christian persecution being so prevalent that the Pope would speak only to persecution of the underground catholic church.