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BEIJING, CHINA, May 24, 2001: The Shankaracharya of Kanchi Peetham in Tamil Nadu, India, received an official invitation from the Chinese government's Association of International Friendly Contact to visit in October this year. The details of Jayendra Saraswati's visit are being worked out. In his seven-day tour, the Paramacharya will meet President Li Peng and other top Chinese leaders. It is not known why the Chinese extended this invitation to a top Hindu priest. The government has previously refused a visa to even the Catholic Pope. This is the first invitation of a religious figure by rulers who regard religion as a hindrance in the material progress of a nation.