Rome (AsiaNews) - Returning to the Vatican, Pope Francis sent
another telegram to the new President Xi Jinping: "Returning to Rome after
my visit to Korea, I wish to renew to your excellency and your fellow citizens
the assurance of my best wishes, as I invoke divine blessings upon your land
". It appears that the first telegram, sent during his flight to Seoul, did
not arrive "for technical reasons" and thus no response was issued.
The second seemed destined to meet with the same fate until mid-morning,
several hours after it was sent. Xinhua did not report on it even though it
made global headlines. It should be said however that Xinhua, which thus far
had failed to publish a single article on the Papal trip to Korea, this morning
published a small piece on the conclusion of the visit and one million faithful
attending the beatification of the Korean Martyrs.
The question now on everyone's lips is whether Pope Francis'
"olive branch" to China marks a "new line" in relations
between the Holy See and Beijing.
Speaking yesterday to the Asian bishops, the pontiff frankly
stated that he "earnestly" hopes that "those countries of your continent with
whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to
further a dialogue for the benefit of all" adding in
unscripted remarks: "I'm not speaking here only about political dialogue,
but a fraternal dialogue. These Christians do not come as conquerors, they are
not trying to erase our identity".
The desperately outstretched hand and tendency to walk
without defences and in friendship, has provoked some to comment that finally,
with this Latin American Pope, the pontiff is no longer presented "an
expression of Western power." Maybe ... But maybe it is worth remembering
that John Paul II set himself against the entire Western world in his
opposition to the war in Iraq against of Saddam Hussein and that Benedict XVI,
in his famous speech in Regensburg, lashed out against a Western culture that
seeks to dominate the world with rationalism and technology.
No, I believe that there is a continuity in the Pope's
actions: His offering the Churches' experience in healing humanity's wounds and
helping to bring the cultures of the peoples to self-realization, by being
open, defenceless and unarmed. This is
the path of Matteo Ricci and the many missionaries of the past and present in
China. If there is something new in what Francis is doing then it is the patience
with which he once again offers a brotherly friendship to a people and its
leaders. In addition there is also his relativizing of the political dialogue,
these long sought diplomatic relations, as if the future of the Church in China
depended solely on these.
To see if Beijing will also embark on a "new line" we will
have to wait a few days maybe sooner: its not a question of whether Xi Jinping
responds to the (second) papal telegram, but if the young people who
participated in the Asian Youth Day in Korea will be persecuted.
Until last February, their participation was taken for
granted. When the Pope announced that he would go to Korea, especially from
July onwards, there was a systematic attempt by the United Front, Religious
Affairs Bureau, provincial and local authorities to persuade, threaten, and
prohibit those who wanted to participate. The authorities exerted pressure on
their families, employers, school and college principals to ensure that young
people would not go to the Asian Youth Day, "encounter the pope and
receive instructions from him". Some members of the government have even
accused the young people of want to participate in "illegal religious
These young Chinese boys and girls went to Korea, overcoming a slalom of prohibitions
and received "instructions from the Pope," that of "fraternal
dialogue" and charity and friendship towards all. I ask, are these "crimes"
punishable by arrest?
I believe that any "new line" of China will be
measured by how China treats these young people. If they encounter trouble,
imprisonment, problems at work and in school - as they fear - then, there is
still an "old line" in China, even if Xi Jinping responds to the Papal