John Paul II Would Travel to China Tomorrow, Vatican Aide Says

If Beijing Wishes to Normalize Ties, Archbishop Pittau Adds

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ROME, OCT. 28, 2001 ( John Paul II would travel immediately to China, if that country´s authorities thought it was an opportune moment to normalize relations, a high Vatican representative said.

«The Pope would be ready to sign an agreement with China tomorrow, if China so wished,» said Archbishop Giuseppe Pittau, secretary of the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, last week. «The political problems could be resolved. Indeed, there already are technical solutions.»

The archbishop made his statements at the close of the two-day congress held in Rome to commemorate the 400th anniversary of Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci´s arrival in China.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry has stipulated two conditions for normalization of relations with the Vatican: the severance of diplomatic relations with Taiwan, and no «meddling,» under religious pretext, in Chinese internal affairs. The latter might imply rejection of papal appointment of Chinese Catholic bishops.

Archbishop Pittau, who spent many years as a missionary in Asia, said he does not think Taiwan is the problem.

In order to resolve existing problems, «John Paul II has already thought of technical solutions, including for episcopal appointments,» the archbishop clarified.

These solutions will be proposed to Beijing, as soon as there is an opportunity to do so. «There is no issue to separate us,» Archbishop Pittau added.

«If a man of the Roman Curia says this, he is not speaking in a personal capacity,» former Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti said, during an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera. Andreotti is honorary president of the Italian-Chinese Institute.

John Paul II proposed a new era of relations with China when he asked for forgiveness for the errors committed in the past by children of the Church.

The Pontiff made his request in a message sent Wednesday to the participants in the congress on Father Matteo Ricci, whose process of beatification is under way.

For a long time the Holy Father has wished to visit China. But it, like Russia, has closed its doors to him.

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