10/11/2016, 17.17
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Églises d'Asie, “Did President Xi Jinping really send a gift to Pope Francis?"

For the news agency, it is "unthinkable, if for no other reason than protocol,” that the Chinese president would openly send a gift to the pope via indirect channels. The Vatican Museums held an exhibit in Taiwan, not mainland China.

Paris (AsiaNews/ÉDA) – Despite good intentions from both China and the Vatican, who show a "sincere desire" to improve relations, the latter have always seemed to be "sensitive”, this according to an article published by Églises d'Asie, titled ‘Did President Xi Jinping really send a gift to Pope Francis?’

The question stems from the answer the pontiff gave a journalist on Vatican relations with China on the plane that brought him back to Rome from Baku on 2 October.

“We have good relations,” the pope said on that occasion, “we study and we talk, there are working commissions… I am optimistic. Now I believe that the Vatican Museum has organized an exhibit in China, the Chinese will do another at the Vatican…

“There are many professors who go to teach in Chinese universities, many nuns, many priests who can work well there. The relations between the Vatican and the Chinese… We have to establish a relationship, and for this we are having discussions, slowly…

“Slow things go well, always. Things done in a hurry do not go well. I have great esteem for the Chinese people. The day before yesterday, for example, there was a two-day conference, I believe, at the [Pontifical] Academy of Sciences on Laudato Si’, and there was a Chinese delegation representing the President. And the President of China sent me a gift. There are good relations.”

The international conference, the new agency was referring to took place on 28 September under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, in collaboration with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. One of the organisations invited was a Chinese foundation active in environmental protection, the China Biodiversity Conservation and Green Development Foundation (中国 生物 多样性 保护 与 绿色 发展 基金会).

The person who represented the foundation at the symposium brought a gift for the pope, a reproduction of the Nestorian Stele or Stele of Daqin, which testifies to the recognition of the presence of the Nestorian Church in China in the 7th century by Emperor Tang Taizong."

The Foundation appears to have very good "connections". Founded by Zhengcao Lu, one of the first generals in the People's Liberation Army, it is now run by an archaeologist, Hu Deping. The latter “is the eldest son of Hu Yaobang (1915-1989), secretary general of the Chinese Communist Party from 1982 to 1987 who was ousted by Deng Xiaoping for being too close to the student protesters demanding more democracy.

"Hu Yaobang died in April of 1989, three weeks before the crackdown against the Beijing Spring, in Tiananmen Square. According to the Japanese press, the father of the current president Xi Jinping, Xi Zhongxun, and Hu Deping’s father were close friends. Such friendship appears to involve their offsprings as well, which is why Xi Jinping, despite his authoritarianism since taking office, allowed the publication of the complete works of Hu Yaobang last year, which bear the mark of a form of liberalism no longer in vogue."

"Neither the Holy See nor China issued any comment after the press reported President Xi Jinping’s ‘gift’ to Pope Francis. China’s official press, whether the Global Times or the People's Daily, have not uttered a word on the matter. The Holy See Press Office assured Églises d'Asie that it had no information either.

"Can we thus believe that President Xi Jinping sent a gift to the pope via the Chinese foundation? According to some observers, the idea would have had some credibility had Hu Deping himself gone to Rome and handed the stele to the pope in person. Without Hu Deping, it seems unthinkable, if for no other reason than protocol, that the Chinese president would have openly sent a gift to the pope via indirect channels."

As for what the pope said on the plane from Baku about an exhibit by the Vatican Museums in China, "we have found no traces of it, except for an exhibition that took place from 5 February to 2 May entitled The Altar, Catholicism Spreads East, The Holy See, The Liturgical Year, The Pope and History, and The Sacraments. It was indeed organised by the Vatican, however, it was not held in mainland China, but in Taipei, Republic of China, i.e. Taiwan”.

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