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11/19/2018 China (International Christian Concern) – A visit from the Pope to China could happen as early as 2019, reports Nikkei Asian Review. Cardinal Joseph Zen from Hong Kong says in an interview with Nikkei Asian Review, “all the popes have had a desire to go to China” and that this trip could be “very possible”.

As the Vatican is eager to pursue better relationships with China, the Pope could soon schedule the first papal visit to the country. This is following what was described as a provisional agreement last September that will dictate the future appointment of Chinese bishops.

The agreement has met much criticism from members of the Catholic church not affiliated with the government. Beijing aims to put all the underground churches under the control of state-sanctioned Catholic association. Cardinal Joseph Zen claims that with the agreement, “everything is to the advantage of the government.”

Although relations with the Vatican and China have improved over the agreement, Zen believes that the Vatican gains nothing from it. According to Zen, “Sometimes it is not possible to have a conclusion. We can survive [without an agreement]”, stating that, “The church survives on faith. The people are not afraid to suffer. So why should they surrender [to government’s request]?”

Since the signing of the agreement, China has seen at least four bishops taken away by the authorities for “indoctrination.” A few Catholic churches also have their crosses or structure removed. Many fear that the government will continue its crackdown in spite of the rapprochement with the Holy See.

For interviews with Gina Goh, ICC’s Regional Manager, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: press@persecution.org.