China is making preparations to make sure that religious services are available for athletes and sports fans in Beijing for the 2008 Olympic Games, bishop Michael Tieshan Fu said Thursday.
Fu is chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and a deputy to the National People's Congress (NPC), China's top legislature.
"The independent Chinese Catholic Church facilitates foreign believers to practice their religious faith in local churches, and the service is available in the year 2008 when the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is held," he said in an interview with Xinhua.
Fu, now 71, was baptized on the eighth day after his birth and has been a priest since 1956. He became the Catholic bishop for Beijing in 1979.
The CPCA is encouraging the study of foreign languages among priests and followers. As some Catholic students have returned from studying in Europe and America, there is no problem for them to preach in English. Now the Church is making arrangements for priests, sisters and divinity school students to learn other foreign languages like Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Korean.
Fu said that both Christianity and Catholicism have experienced tremendous development in China since the founding of the People's Republic in 1949, and the number of the Christian and Catholic believers has increased by a big margin.
Pointing out that the presidium of the current NPC session has two members from religious circles, Fu said, "It is impossible for religious people to hold two seats in the presidium, if we don't enjoy freedom of religion."
(Xinhua News Agency March 14, 2002)