In a statement, the Holy See said it wished to "overcome misunderstandings of the past" with Beijing, which does not allow Chinese Catholics to recognise papal authority, News.com.au reports.
A longstanding modus vivendi between the Holy See and Beijing - by which most of the bishops of China's official Church have been legitimised by the Pope - was upset last year when Chinese state authorities went ahead with the ordination of four bishops who did not have Pope Benedict's tacit approval.
The Vatican statement said participants expressed the desire to normalise relations at "different levels" in order to benefit the Church and work together for the good of the Chinese people and for peace in the world.
Emerging from the discussions "was the willingness to pursue the path of respectful and constructive dialogue with the government authorities, to overcome the incomprehension of the past," the statement said.
AsiaNews adds that the meeting was called at the express wish of the Pope "in the desire to deepen his knowledge of the situation of the Catholic Church in China".
The meeting "was animated by a frank and fraternal cordiality" and examined "the most serious and urgent ecclesial problems, which call for adequate solutions based on the fundamental principles of the Church's divine constitution and religious freedom".
According to other reports, the statement also paid tribute to bishops, priests and rank-and-file clergy in China who "without yielding to compromise, have kept their loyalty to the Seat of St Peter, at times even at the price of great suffering."
Pope Benedict who did not attend the meeting was broadly informed of the discussions and "has decided to send a letter to Catholics in China", the Vatican statement said.
Among the top Vatican officials and Church leaders at the meeting was Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate of human rights and religious freedom who is pushing for a change of direction on China.
Benedict calls on Turkey to recognise Church
In another story, AKI reports that Pope Benedict also called on Thursday for Turkey to give the Catholic Church legal status as a recognised religious institution.
"In enjoying the freedom of religion which the Turkish constitution grants to all believers, the Catholic Church hopes it can benefit from a recognised judicial statute," Benedict said during a meeting with Turkey's new ambassador to the Holy See, Moammer Dogan Akdur.
Benedict told Akdur that he hoped all religions would strive for peace "beginning by denouncing violence which too often in the past has been motivated on religious grounds."
"During the course of my memorable trip to Turkey, I manifested on several occasions the great respect that the Catholic Church has for Islam and for the Muslim faithful," the Pope added.
Turkish editor's killing linked to priest murder
Meanwhile in Turkey, police are looking into possible links between the killing of newspaper editor Hrant Dink, a Turk of Armenian descent who was shot on Friday, and the killing of a Catholic priest, Andrea Santaro, last February, The Age reports.
This follows the capture of 17-year-old Ogun Samast who allegedly confessed to the killing of the newspaper editor, an advocate of Armenian rights.
On Saturday night, Samast was captured in Samsun, a Black Sea port, after his father recognised his images from the surveillance video and notified the police, the report says.
Samast, like the murdered priest and his 16-year-old assailant, was from Trabzon.
Pope to write special letter to Catholics in China as Church pursues diplomatic ties (International Herald Tribune, 20/1/07)
Vatican calls for 'normal China relations' (News.com.au, 20/1/07)
The Pope prepares a letter to China’s Catholics (AsiaNews, 20/1/07)
Vatica: Pope asks Turkey to give Church legal status (AdKronos International, 19/1/07)
Teen admits shooting Turkish editor (The Age, 21/1/06)
LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Roman Catholicism in China (Wikipedia)
Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association
Vatican holding "private" top level meeting on China (CathNews, 19/1/07)
Hong Kong cardinal in call to excommunicate China bishops (CathNews, 22/12/06)
Chinese Bishop abducted, escapes over illicit ordination (CathNews, 1/12/06) Hong Kong Cardinal says China persecutes both official and underground churches (CathNews, 3/10/06)
Cardinal Zen urges suspension of bishop Beijing ordained (CathNews, 1/5/06)
22 Jan 2007