China responded with caution over the weekend to overtures made by the Vatican, stating that papal ties with Taiwan must end if a diplomatic relationship is to be established with Beijing, AFP reported. The Vatican convened a special meeting Saturday to discuss its relations with China, the result of which was a call for "respectful and constructive dialogue" with the Communist leadership. Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the official Chinese Catholic Patriot Association, said he hoped that formal ties between Beijing and the Vatican could be established "as soon as possible". China severed ties with the Vatican more than 50 years ago and the state-sanctioned Catholic Church is said to have about four million followers, none of whom are allowed to recognize papal authority. The Vatican believes a further 10 million people belong to the illegal or underground church.