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Catholic Leader's Historic Visit to Mark First for 21st-Century China

The most senior Roman Catholic Church leader in Scotland will become the first Catholic leader in the West to visit China this century when he begins a 12-day pastoral visit this week.

Scottish Cardinal Keith O'Brien will visit China by taking part in a cultural exchange that will see him visit Beijing, Shanghai, and Xi'an, which has been twinned with the United Kingdom's Edinburgh since 1984.

The visit is another sign that long-term divisions between the Catholic Church and Communist China are starting to ease.

Reports have also indicated that the O'Brien intends to progress links between the Catholic and Protestant churches in the country during his visit.

"I know visiting China will be a very interesting experience," said the cardinal, who will visit the Great Wall while in Beijing. "It is a visit I have hoped to make for many years, to be able to enjoy the centuries-old culture of the country."

O'Brien will arrive in China on Friday following a visit to Vietnam, where he will be holding a lecture on social justice organized by the Vietnamese Academy of Social Sciences in Hanoi.

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