Telegram good gesture from Pope to China
Updated: 2014-08-19 22:47
A telegram sent by Pope Francis to President Xi Jinping could be the start of an improving ties between China and the Vatican, said a Chinese religious studies expert.
Zhuo Xinping, director of the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said Pope Francis has been active in improving bilateral relations between China and the Vatican since he was elected in March 2013.
Pope Francis wrapped up his five-day trip to South Korea on Monday. On his way back to Rome the pontiff said he wants to visit China.
"You ask me if I want to go to China? Certainly, even tomorrow," he told reporters on board the papal plane.
While flying over China, he sent a telegram to President Xi Jinping, saying, "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."
Pope Francis is the first leader of the Catholic Church to fly over China.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Hua Chunying confirmed that China received the telegram and that, "China will work with the Vatican on a constructive dialogue and promote the improvement of bilateral relations."
Hua said the Chinese government respects and lawfully protects Chinese citizens' freedom of religious belief and also supports religion believers to play a more active role in promoting economic and social development.
"In accordance with its history and tradition, the Chinese catholic church conducts catholic activities based on the principles of independence and is developing soundly," said Hua.
China has always been sincere about improving relations with the Vatican and has been making positive efforts to do that, Hua added.
The Argentinean born Pope has reportedly said that he had exchanged letters with China's president in March 2013.
"We are close to China," he said, according to media reports. "I sent a letter to President Xi Jinping when he was elected, three days after me. And he replied."
According to Zhuo, the pontiff's background and standing as a member of the Society of Jesus makes him a good candidate to mend relations between China and the Vatican.
"He is from the Society of Jesus, which has a very long tradition of communicating with China. Matteo Ricci, a member of the society, had been to China several hundred years ago," Zhuo said. He added that China has a long history with the Society of Jesus. Members of the Society of Jesus are also known as Jesuits.
Zhuo said he believes these two factors will make the pontif more active in promoting bilateral relations of China and Vatican.
Zhao Shengnan contributed to the story.