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Pope Francis Reaches Out to China During South Korea Trip

ICC Note:

ICC reported in a news release  in July that China perceives Christianity as ideological infiltration from “foreign forces,” posing a threat to Chinese identity and China’s socialist values. It is one of the motives behind Chinese government’s crackdown on Christian churches. On his visit to South Korea, Pope Francis said “Christians aren’t coming as conquerors; they aren’t trying to take away our identity.” China, for the first time, let the pope’s plane fly through Chinese airspace on his way to South Korea. While above China, the pope sent a telegram to the Chinese president, offering his best wishes to Chinese people. In response, China’s Foreign Ministry made a statement of their willingness to “continue working with Vatican through constructive dialogues to promote bilateral relations.” Amid the ongoing church/cross demolition in Zhejiang Province in China, ICC closely follows China’s policy toward Christianity.

08/17/2014 South Korea (The Wall Street Journal)—On the penultimate day of his visit to South Korea, Pope Francis sent one of his most explicit messages to Beijing by expressing hopes to establish full relations with China.

During a meeting with Asian bishops on Sunday, the pontiff said he “firmly hope[s] that the [Asian] countries with whom the Holy See doesn’t yet have full relations won’t hesitate to pursue a dialogue that would benefit all parties.”

The Vatican, which has diplomatic relations with most countries around the world, doesn’t have ties with China.

He went on to say, “Christians don’t come as conquerors,” a reference aimed at soothing Chinese concerns that religious activities could feed political dissent.

While brief, the pope’s remarks were his first substantive comments on a topic of interest to the Vatican, which sees a spiritual vacuum in China as Communist ideology erodes and its economy prospers. Pope Francis’ first major remarks on China have been eagerly awaited.

The pope’s words came on the fourth of a five-day trip to South Korea—the pontiff’s first to Asia and one that has taken place in the shadow of the Vatican’s fraught relations with China.

The Vatican hasn’t had relations with China for more than 60 years. Nomination of Catholic bishops is a central problem. China’s state controlled Catholic Patriotic Association claims the power to nominate bishops, while the Holy See regards it as an inalienable right.

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