12/03/2017, 14.12
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With China "we must go step by step gently, slowly,” says pope

The pontiff talked to reporters on his flight home from Bangladesh. In Myanmar, mentioning the Rohingya “would have been like slamming the door in my interlocutors’ face. But I described the situation, I spoke of minority rights, so that I could go further in the private conversations.” As for a trip to India, “I hope to do it in 2018 if I am alive.”

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – During his return flight to Rome, where he landed at 9.40 pm (local time), Pope Francis spoke with journalists. Answering the question of one reporters, he said that with China "we must go step by step gently, slowly, with patience. The doors to the heart are open."

“Don’t worry! The trip to China is not being prepared,” he said. “I have already said that I would like to visit China. That I would like to do is not a secret. Negotiations with China are at a high cultural level. [At present], there is an exhibition of the Vatican Museums in China. There are political talks over the Chinese Church. We must proceed step by step gently, slowly, with patience. The doors to the heart are open, and I believe that a trip to China will be good thing for everyone. I would like to do it.”

Reporters asked questions about the Rohingya who fled Myanmar for Bangladesh. Speaking as to why he did not mention their name, the pontiff said “I didn’t negotiate the truth with the generals. In Myanmar I respected my interlocutors. [. . .] For me, the most important thing is that the message got through. For this reason, we must say things step by step, and listen to the answers. I was wanted this message to get through. Had I said this word in the official speech it would have been like slamming the door in my interlocutors’ face. But I described the situation, I spoke of minority rights, so that I could go further in the private conversations. I was satisfied with the talks.”

With respect to the meeting with the Rohingya, the pontiff said “It wasn’t planned like this. I knew that I was going to meet the Rohingya. But I didn’t know where or how, but this was the condition of the trip. After contacts with the government and with Caritas, the government allowed the Rohingya to travel. It is the government that protects them and gives them hospitality. What Bangladesh does for them is great. It is an example of hospitality. A small, poor country that takes in 700,000 people . . . Think of the countries that shut their doors. We must be grateful for the example that they gave us.”

“In the end they came, scared. Someone told them they could not say anything. The interfaith meeting prepared all of our hearts. When the moment came for them to come and greet me, lined up, I did not like it. They wanted to chase them away immediately, and I got angry and shouted a bit. I am sinner! I said many times the word: respect! And they remained. Later, after listening to each of them, I began to feel something inside. I could not let them go without saying something. I began to speak, and I asked for forgiveness. At that moment, I was crying. I tried not to let others see that. They too were crying. The message got through, and not only here. Everybody got it.”

Francis answered another question about the relationship between interfaith dialogue and evangelisation. “First distinction: evangelising is not proselytising. The Church does not grow by proselytising but by attraction, by bearing witness, as Benedict XVI explained it. What is evangelisation? [It is] Living the Gospel and bearing witness to how one lives the Gospel: The Beatitudes, Chapter 25 of Matthew, bearing witness like the Good Samaritan, forgiving 70 times 7. In such testimony, the Holy Spirit is at work and conversions follow.”

“It is not a convincing mentally with apologetics. We are witnesses to the Gospel. The Greek word is ‘martyr’, the martyrdom of every day, and also that of blood, when it happens. What is the priority? When one lives by bearing witness and respect, one makes peace. Peace starts to break down when proselytising begins.”

Finally, talking about a possible trip to India, Francis said that “Initially, the plan was to go to India and Bangladesh, but then talks were delayed and time was short so I chose these two countries: Bangladesh was kept but we added Myanmar. It was a blessing because to visit India, one can only do it a single trip, because you’ve got to go to the south, the centre, the east, the northeast, the north for the different cultures of India. I hope to do it in 2018 if I am alive!”

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