VATICAN CITY (AFP): The Sistine Chapel choir will perform in Hong Kong for the first time in September but will not visit mainland China despite efforts to improve the rocky relations between Beijing and the Vatican. Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told AFP on Monday that the choral group, one of the oldest religious choirs in the world, will sing in Macao on September 19, followed by concerts in Hong Kong and Taipei on September 21 and 23.

The singers, who normally perform during papal ceremonies, have already toured many regions of the world, including a visit to Moscow earlier this year. The choir is traditionally made up of around 20 adult singers and 30 male choristers. According to the EDA religious press agency, “the choir was originally intended to travel to Beijing and other cities in the country as well.” While “negotiations had been underway between the Holy See and Beijing” for the choir to sing in China “as a diplomatic and cultural gesture” aimed at easing tension between the Vatican and China, “obviously they were unsuccessful” it said.