Thanks to David Cowhig for sending this translation of a report from sina.com:
The PRC Foreign Ministry spokesperson, in answering a journalists questions about whether there would be a condolences telegram from China, how does China evaluate Pope John Paul II and what hopes does China have for the next pope?
PRC MOFA spokesperson Liu Jianchao said that we express our sadness at the passing of Pope John Paul II. The China Patriotic Catholic Association as the unique catholic organization in China on behalf of all clergy and catholics sent a telegram.
Liu said that Pope John Paul II had expressed regret for errors the Catholic Church had committed with respect to China in the past and said that the Vatican and the Chinese Catholics have “religious ties which could not harm in any way the unity of the Chinese nation and cannot in any way weaken China’s independence and sovereignty.” That statement was helpful in improving relations between China and the Vatican.
Liu said that China insists on two fundamental principles in its relationship with the Vatican. We are willing on the basis of those two principles to improve our relations with the Vatican. We hope that the Vatican under the leadership of the new Pope can create conditions for improving relations between China and the Vatican. Chinese text below.
David Cowhig comments: I notice that while the news items on news.sina.com.cn normally provide for reader comments (pinglun down at the bottom), there are no comments entered in the article on Pope Paul II’s sickness and death. Orders from the communist above, most likely.
I recall about five years ago visiting a Chinese Patriotic Catholic Church in the provinces. The mass book in the pews had a big color picture of John Paul II in it, during the Vatican II rite mass in Chinese the congregation prayed for the Pope. After mass, I asked several people if they were Roman Catholics. They said straight out “Of course!”. I talked with a priest in his office later. He had a picture of John Paul II on his wall. I asked if their church was in obedience to the Pope in religious matters. He said “Yes, of course. Not to be so would be a violation of Canon Law.” He said they stay in touch with Rome through visits from foreign clergy from time to time. The church could hold religious instruction within the church but could not go out and invite people from outside. There were quite a few young people in church. Another priest told me that during the Boxer Rebellion there were many Catholic martyrs and the church survived the Cultural Revolution. The communists cannot destroy it. Times are easier now than they have been in decades if you think about the Japanese invasion, the Civil War, and the first decades of the PRC, the priest said.
I gather that the situation of the Catholic Church varies greatly from province to province. In some provinces such as Hebei there are still underground catholic congregations. It seems that in some places the Patriotic Catholic Church is only formally independent but actually in communication with Rome. A quite complicated situation, but for the sake of keeping things calm, reality can be ignored. And the Pope can name a bishop secretly if need be.
Several other articles about the death of the Pope collected below at the bottom of the page.