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Pope may visit China this summer, says China and the Vatican are 'close'

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 7th, 2014
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

In an interview with an Italian newspaper, Pope Francis acknowledged that "relations exist" between China and the Vatican and that he has exchanged letters with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - During an interview with the Italian paper, Corriere della Sera, Pope Francis confirmed that he has corresponded with Chinese President, Xi Jinping.

Pope Francis said, "I sent a letter to President Xi Jinping when he was elected, three days after me. And he replied to me."

Pope Francis told the paper he hoped to develop "friendly relations with China" and described the Vatican as being "close to China."

The paper said that Pope Francis prayed for victims of an earthquake in China as well as offering special prayers on the World Day of Prayer.

Relations between the Catholic Church and the Vatican have been strained in the past, but seemt o have improved a bit in recent years. At the heart of the problem is that the Chinese communist government is essentially an atheistic regime where religion competes with the worship of the state. For this reason, Christianity in China has been suppressed, although there is an officially approved Catholic church in China with bishops chosen by the Catholic Patriotic Association.

There is also a substantial underground Catholic church in China as well as many other Christian denominations which flourish in that country, often underground to avoid state interference. Underground churches are subject to persecution which strains relations.

In 2011, the Vatican rejected the bishop appointments made by the Catholic Patriotic Association and even went so far as to excommunicate bishops there. The Vatican has insisted that it alone has the duty to appoint bishops.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry called on the Vatican "not to interfere in China's internal affairs" just days following the resignation of Pope Benedict.

However, Pope Francis has pursued his usual course, a course of prayer and action which includes building cordial relations. Those actions may have paid off as rumors of a papal visit, the first since 1949, have begin swirling.

A planned visit to Hong Kong by Pope John Paul II in 1999 was cancelled by Beijing.

Now, years later, it is possible that Pope Francis may stop in Beijing during a tour of Asia planned for this summer.

Opponents of the Chinese government have warned via social media that any papal visit could be propagandized by the Chinese government. Nonetheless, Chinese Catholics are just as faithful as any other, and they too deserve to see their Holy Father. The state will do what it will.

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