Subject:SCMP/AP: Vatican says ‘door is open’ to meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis
Published: 12:30pm, 20 Mar, 2019
Vatican secretary of state says both sides must be willing to talk
Xi’s Italy visit comes six months after Chinese accord with the Vatican
A senior Vatican official has said the Catholic Church’s door is “is always open” to dialogue with China as Italy prepared for the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.
Italian media has speculated for days about the possibility of a meeting between Xi and Pope Francis during Xi’s March 21-24 visit, but there has been no word from either side. China and the Vatican have not had diplomatic relations for more than half a century.
When asked on Tuesday about Xi’s visit to Italy, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state and an adviser to the Pope, said: “Our door is always open”, but he said both sides would have to express a willingness to meet.
The Vatican has been working to build on relations that stemmed from September’s provisional agreement between Beijing and the Holy See over the nomination of bishops.
China’s estimated 12 million Catholics are split between those who belong to the government-backed Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which is outside the Pope’s authority, and an underground church loyal to the Pope. Underground priests and parishioners are frequently detained and harassed by state authorities.
The September deal was aimed at uniting the faithful, regularising the status of seven bishops who were not recognised by Rome and beginning a thaw in decades of estrangement between China and the Vatican.
It has led to reservations from some of China’s underground Catholics, for whom the deal represented a sell-out to the Communist Party, the government, and a betrayal of their decades of loyalty to the papacy.
In a preface to a book on Vatican-China relations – the publication of which was timed to coincide with Xi’s visit – Parolin said that it was time to “remember the past and write together a new page for the future of the church in China”.
“The Catholic Church in China is not a ‘foreigner’ but an integral and active part of Chinese history and can contribute to the edification of a society that is more harmonious and respectful of all,” he wrote.
“Today, the hope of Pope Francis is that, after so many difficulties, misunderstandings, and sufferings, the Catholic community, too, can intone in the Middle Kingdom, through sincere dialogue, a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes.”
The book was the latest initiative by the Jesuit order magazine, La Civilta Cattolica, to lay the intellectual and cultural foundations for improved Vatican-China ties.
As part of that effort, the magazine joined with the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington to launch a series of talks, the “China Forum for Civilisational Dialogue”.
The issue of bishop nominations had been the main stumbling block to restoring diplomatic relations that were severed nearly seven decades ago when the Communist Party took power in China.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Vatican says door open ahead of Xi trip to Italy