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Chinese President Xi Jinping.Kaliva /

BEIJING, May 22, 2015 ( — Chinese President Xi Jinping told a high-level Communist Party meeting on May 20 that Christian religious adherents in China must not be allowed to be influenced by foreign religious organizations.

“We must manage religious affairs in accordance with the law and adhere to the principle of independence to run religious groups on our own accord,” Xi said, adding that any religious work in the country must focus on the officially atheist goals of communism.

“Active efforts should be made to incorporate religions into socialist society,” he said.

On the same day that President Xi Jinping delivered his speech to the Communist Party meeting in Beijing, in Rome during Wednesday's general audience, Pope Francis urged Catholics in China “to live spiritually united to the rock of Peter upon whom the Church is built.”

The Chinese government severed diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1957, setting up a puppet regime, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), whose bishops for the most part are appointed by the government without Vatican approval.

However, an underground Catholic Church loyal to Rome exists, shepherded by bishops such as Msgr. Julius Jia Zhiguo of the diocese of Zhengding, who faced countless arrests and spent years in prison being “reeducated” for refusing to join the CPCA.