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Pope dropped a note to Chinese president

VATICAN (SE): “We are close to China. I sent a letter to President Xi Jinping when he was elected, three days after me. And he answered me. The relationships are there. They are a great people whom I love,” Pope Francis told the Italian daily newspaper, Corriere della Sera, which was published his comment in a much longer interview on March 5.

This is the third time that the pope has given a face-to-face interview to the paper. It was conducted by Ferruccio de Bortoli, who asked him, “In a few years the greatest world power will be China with which the Vatican has no relations. Matteo Ricci was a Jesuit like you.”

The Jesuit pope said that he believes that the Vatican is close to China and he really wants to have a close relationship with the country.

It is the first time that the current pope has spoken directly about China, although he did pray publicly for the victims of the Sichuan earthquake.

In May last year and the head of the Vatican aid agency, Cor Unum, Robert Cardinal Sarah, announced at a Caritas conference in Hong Kong on May 16 last year that a donation was being sent by the pope for the relief effort.

UCA News reported that following the shock resignation of Pope Benedict in February last year, the Foreign Ministry in Beijing called on his then unknown successor not to “interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

However, since that time, it has been reported that the Chinese media has been neutral in reporting on Pope Francis and presented his movements and words in a matter of fact manner, without any negative innuendo.

UCA News reported the Hong Kong-based China Church watcher, Kwun Ping-hung, as saying that the previously unknown communication between Pope Francis and Xi could signify a desire by both men to improve relations.

“However, having gone through ups and downs over several decades, China and the Vatican know very well that they each have their respective bottom lines to uphold and difficulties to face,” he said. “Both sides are prepared (knowing) that there is still a long way to go.”

However, why Pope Francis chose this moment to reveal a letter he wrote around one year ago is not clear.

There has been talk of a papal visit to Beijing in August this year when Pope Francis comes to South Korea for Asian Youth Day, but to date this is at the level of rumour.


But since he was elected the Vatican diplomatic ties with Taiwan appear to have become less of a problem with Beijing, so maybe something in the smoggy air enveloping the nation’s capital city is clearing.

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