Pope Francis reached out to Beijing on the penultimate day of his visit to South Korea Sunday, saying he is hopeful of establishing full diplomatic relations with China.
The pontiff told a meeting of Asian bishops about his hope that Asian countries that don’t have full diplomatic ties with the Vatican “won’t hesitate to pursue a dialogue that would benefit all parties”, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The Vatican, which has diplomatic relations with most countries around the world, has no diplomatic relations with China.
“Christians don’t come as conquerors,” Francis said in what observers said was an attempt at soothing Chinese concerns that religious activities could feed political dissent.
It was the pope’s 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. His first major remarks on China have been eagerly awaited.
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 entirely up to the Vatican.
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