Wire Service: AP
On March 28, 2006 the Associated Press reported, "Pope Benedict XVI told a delegation from Hong Kong he will visit China in what would be an extraordinary papal visit to the communist nation, but he said the trip's timing depends on 'God's wish,' media reports said Tuesday. One of the Vatican's goals is to restart official relations with China, which forced its Roman Catholics to cut ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the officially atheist Communists took power. People can worship only in government-controlled churches. Pope John Paul II, the most-traveled pontiff in history, was unable to visit China during his 26-year papacy. Pope Paul VI made a three-hour stopover in Hong Kong in 1970 when it was a British colony. No pope has ever visited mainland China. The Hong Kong delegation was in Rome for ceremonies installing 15 new cardinals, including Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen. Zen, an outspoken champion of religious freedom in China, said he believed the pope would visit Hong Kong first if he made a China trip."