20 Nov 2010

Pope holding rare policy meeting with cardinals

8:40 am on 20 November 2010

The Pope is holding a rare meeting with more than 100 cardinals from around the world for discussions on policy.

Religious freedom - the persecution of Christians in some countries and a dispute with China - and the clerical sex abuse scandal are on the agenda.

They will also discuss the decision to invite disaffected Anglican bishops and priests to join the Catholic Church, the BBC reports.

The talks will be followed by the elevation of 24 new cardinals by Pope Benedict at a ceremony on Saturday.

Some cardinals have criticised the attention given to the sex abuse scandal.

It is the third consistory - or assembly of cardinals - of Pope Benedict's tenure, which began in 2005.

All 179 cardinals would only gather for a conclave - the meeting following the death or abdication of a pope to elect his successor.

But Pope Benedict has been attempting to create more opportunities for the cardinals to discuss important issues.

They are also discussing religious freedom for Christians, following a recent rise in attacks on Christians in Iraq and a row with China over the ordination of bishops without papal approval.

On Saturday, Chinese bishop the Rev Guo Jincai, is due to be ordained in the city of Chengde, in Hebei province. He is a member of the state-backed church which does not recognise the pope.

The Vatican and China have had no diplomatic ties since the 1950s, when Beijing expelled foreign clergy, but their relationship had been improving in recent years.