08/21/2014, 00.00
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Chinese experts: cautious openings in relations with Vatican

by Wang Zhicheng
Zhuo Xinping, of the Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing says Pope Francis "will improve" relations being "a Jesuit" and "Latin American". Li Xiangping speaks of a "new atmosphere". But Party press do not report on the Pope’s statements or telegrams. A website recalls the "two mountains" to be overcome: diplomatic relations with Taiwan and "interference" in the internal affairs of China. Generic statements of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - The fact that Pope Francis is a "Jesuit" and "Latino" are two qualities that could improve relations between China and the Holy See. This is according to a Chinese expert on religions following the Pope's overtures during his trip to South Korea.

In an article written by Huo Liqiang, published in the China Daily yesterday, Prof. Zhuo Xinping the director of the Institute for World Religions, linked to the Academy of Social Sciences, says Pope Francis has been " has been active in improving bilateral relations between China and the Vatican since he was elected". For this reason, he believes that the pontiff will have an increasingly positive role in boosting relations between the Holy See and Beijing. Among the qualities attributed to him is the fact that he is a Jesuit, a religious order "which has a long tradition of relations with China. Matteo Ricci, a member of society, visited China several hundred years ago".

Another quality is his being Argentine, a "friend of the economies in the developing world," with "special feelings for their people, because of his being of Latin American origin".

Yesterday, another newspaper, the Global Times, citing a professor of East China Normal University in Shanghai, Li Xiangping, described a "new atmosphere for a possible détente" created by the "olive branch" extended by the Pope to China "with great kindness".

The article cites an interview that Francis gave reporters on his return trip to Rome, where he expressed his desire to visit China even "tomorrow", and where he points out that the Church is only asking for "freedom for its ministry, for its work. No other condition".

The columnist, Li Yan, points out that in this Pope Francis "reaffirms the Vatican's position on the appointment of bishops," but Prof. Li Xiangping also sees "room for negotiation" and China "might consider the possibility of a meeting".

Another publication that mentions the Pope and China-Vatican relations is the website China net. In the article written by a certain Joke, it speaks of the "two mountains" to overcome: diplomatic relations with Taiwan and interference in the internal affairs of China. The author himself acknowledges that the Taiwan issue is secondary and that "interference" (especially in the appointment of bishops) is due to the Catholic Churches' concept of itself.

Joke praises the "airspace diplomacy" inaugurated by Francis and China and admits that an improvement of relations with the Holy See would boost China's "international image."

No organ of the Communist Party, not even Xinhua news agency, has reported on the Pope's words in Korea - on the subject of dialogue with the countries that have no diplomatic relations with the Holy See- nor of the telegrams sent to Xi Jinping.

The Global Times, in the article quoted, points to a statement of Hua Chunying, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry, expressed August 19, according to whom "China has always been sincere and worked hard to improve relations with the Vatican." This generic statement is still the only semi-official response to all of Pope Francis' gestures and overtures.



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