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VATICAN DEFENDS TO CHINA ITS CANONIZATION OF 120

In an increasingly bitter exchange, the Vatican Tuesday defended its decision to canonize 120 Catholics killed in China.

"Sunday's ceremony has no political motivation and is not directed against anyone," Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said.

He was responding to accusations from Beijing that the canonization was a "slander against the Chinese people."

The 120 Catholics -- some of them Chinese and some European missionaries -- died during religious persecutions between 1648 and 1930. Eighty-seven of them are the first Chinese ever raised to sainthood.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Sun Yuxi, said earlier Tuesday that the Catholics should not be honored because they sided with foreign powers against China.

Navarro-Valls said the Chinese accusations were "the fruit of a unilateral reading of history."

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