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Papal gesture towards China

Pope Francis has said several times in recent months that China is close to his heart, on each occasion capturing the attention of the international media. During his visit to Mexico in February, the pope made two references to China within a space of six days.

After meeting with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow on February 12 at Havana airport in Cuba on his way to Mexico, he pointed to his heart and said to journalists, “China and Russia, I have them here.”

During the inflight press conference between Mexico City and Rome, he was asked when he is going to visit his home country of Argentina and when he thought he would be able to go to China. He answered simply, “China. To go there. I would love that.”

He devoted an entire interview published prior to the Lunar New Year in the Hong Kong-based Internet news site, Asia Times, to China.

The pope spoke appreciatively about Chinese culture and, reflecting his deep love for the world and strong belief in God’s involvement in human history, was optimistic about the power of China’s development.

But because these are universal values they are applicable to all peoples in the world.

While he also noted that he believes that the Church can learn a lot from contact with Chinese culture and that he believes that with better relations it could also contribute to the life quality of the people.

However, he also noted that the economic welfare and freedom of the Chinese people is fundamentally pinned to their relationship with authority and the manipulation of poverty and wealth, as well as control of the information flow.

Although the pope enjoys the status of head of state in the eyes of most nations, which allows him a lot of space for dialogue with their leaders, that privilege is denied to him in the mainland where culture seems to have become synonymous with the Communist Party of China.

So when he talks about “accepting past blunders and stumbles and moving towards a good future,” does he mean that people should embrace the type of development which is formulated by the Communist Party?

A blessing from the pope does not change the current situation of the people in China, so while Catholic people may well appreciate the good will shown towards them by the pope, they are still left with the same dilemma of how to respond to the challenges of life.

But the one thing that Christianity does affirm is that God is the lord of history. However, he has not promised any country constant justice or deliverance from suffering. God only promises that he will always be with his people. What Christians always have is hope.

We do not know in what way the Chinese authorities and Chinese leaders understand the papal gesture, even though they must surely ponder how China itself should deal with its 5,000-year-old culture.

 

The only thing that we really do know is that in various situations in human history, whether freedom of religion is denied or human rights are violated, God never abandons his people, but keeps his children in the palm of his hand and protects them. SE