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New overseer of religious affairs

BEIJING (UCAN): The Central Committee of the Communist Party named 56-year-old Ling Jihua the new head of the United Front Work Department in Beijing, China, on September 1.

His appointment is of particular interest for the Catholic Church, as part of the brief of the United Front is to oversee religious affairs on the mainland.

A close ally of the president, Hu Jintao, Ling was previously the director of the General Office of the Central Committee, which oversees the daily affairs of the party.

His responsibility as head of the United Front may affect what is happening with Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who has not appeared in public since he announced he was quitting his posts in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association at his ordination ceremony in Shanghai on July 7.

Ling’s appointment, which comes ahead of the National Congress scheduled to be held in October and will choose leaders to replace the administration of Hu Jintao and Wen Jiabo, got a mixed reception from Catholics.

“The impact of this personnel change has not yet been seen,” said one priest, who asked not to be named.

Some Catholic bloggers and clergy think that no matter who becomes the head of the United Front, the party’s attitude will remain the same. They say that policies and decisions related to the Church are not decided by one faction of the party.

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