After Cuba and the US, the Pope is looking East once again. And, in particular, at China, the Holy See’s most sensitive diplomatic file. On the flight home from Philadelphia - the final leg of the historic trip that marked a decisive step in his pontificate - Bergoglio reiterated his desire to visit this country.
“China is one of the great nations that offers the world a great culture and so many good things. I once said on the plane when we were flying over China returning from Korea that I would very much like to go to China. I love the Chinese people, I care about them, and I hope that there is the possibility to have good relations with them.”
These relations, though discreet, exist, thanks to the skill of the Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin: “We have contacts, we talk. For me visiting a friendly country, like China, that has a great deal of culture as well as the possibility to do good would be a joy.”
Approximately 12 million Catholics live in China, led by bishops in part appointed directly by the Pope (sometimes with the tacit consent of the government, as is the case of the capital and of Shanghai, which for the last two years has been in a state of semi-liberty) and in part by bishops that Rome doesn't recognize because they are a direct offshoot of the regime through the Patriotic Association.
In recent days both the Pope and the Chinese President Xi Jinping were in Washington at the same time for a few hours: apparently a “handshake” between the two leaders was the only contact. But nothing was accomplished: perhaps a step of this magnitude is considered premature for China for its potential impact on domestic politics.
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