By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
8/19/2014 (10 months ago)
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)
On his return flight from South Korea, Pope Francis said that he hoped to visit China soon, an act which would be the first time any Pope traveled to that country.
LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - As if sowing the seeds for such a visit, while the Pope was on his way home from South Korea and in Chinese airspace he sent greetings to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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"You ask me if I have a desire to go to China? Certainly, tomorrow. Yes," he said during a mid-flight press conference.
These are the first comments Francis has made in regards to China's harsh restrictions on Christianity, and during the conference Francis alluded to the Vatican's position in negotiating with Beijing.
"We respect the Chinese people. The Church only asks for freedom for its job, its work - no other condition," he said.
Father Federico Lombardi, a Vatican Spokesman, could not confirm or comment on reports that Francis had met with Chinese officials in June.
During the South Korean visit, the Pope did decline to answer a question posed by a young man from Hong Kong who asked about China's harsh regulations.
"Obviously the people in China are in the heart and mind of the pope," Lombardi said.
"Returning to Rome after my visit to Korea, I wish to renew to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens the assurance of my best wishes, as I invoke divine blessings upon your land," the Pope's message said during his August 18 flight.
An event that received much less attention was the Pope's blessing of a Chinese martyr during a beatification mass in downtown Seoul on August 16.
Father James Zhou Wen-mo of Suzhou, near Shanghai, was beheaded because of his faith in 1801, less than seven years after he first entered Korea as a Catholic missionary.