China Catholics cheer pope's South Korea visit, express hopes for Beijing-Vatican relations

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Chinese Catholics are cheering Pope Francis' visit to neighbor South Korea, saying they hope that it will help end the estrangement between their government and the Vatican.

Francis' first visit to Asia including a first-ever papal flyover of Chinese airspace, during which he sent a telegram expressing greetings and prayers to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people.

On Friday, Catholic laypeople and priests who flocked to mass at Beijing's oldest church said they felt closer to the pope and expressed hopes for a papal visit in the not too-distant future.

China and the Vatican have no formal ties and relations have been tense over Beijing's demand that it have the right to appoint bishop. The Vatican says that key prerogative belongs to it alone.