Pope Meets Pilgrims From China © Vatican Media

The Pope in China? Vatican Secretary of State Responds (and These Are the Vatican’s Next Steps with China)

If the objective is reached, Cardinal Matteo Zuppi will be the third Cardinal to visit China officially since 1980

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 31.08.2023).- On the eve of the start of the Holy Father’s trip to Mongolia, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, gave an interview to the Vatican media. One of the questions posed related to China. Given that Mongolia is a country that shares a long border with China, he was asked about the possibility of a trip by the Pope to that country. And to this question, Cardinal Parolin responded:


Everyone knows Pope Francis’ interest in China. And, regarding your question, I can say that there is in the Holy Father’s heart this great desire — a desire that is totally comprehensible, which he has already expressed several times publicly, to travel to that noble country, both to visit the Catholic community and to encourage it on the path of faith and unity, as well as to meet with the political Authorities, with whom the Holy See has maintained a dialogue for some time, in the confidence that, despite the difficulties and obstacles of the path, it is precisely by this way of dialogue and of encounter, more than by ideological confrontation, that good fruits can be obtained for all.


In connection with the dialogue, to which Cardinal Parolin referred, sources of the Vatican Secretariat of State heard by ZENIT (which prefer anonymity) have stated that the Holy See’s current diplomatic effort with China is geared to having a resident Papal Representative in the country. It would be a figure similar to that agreed to recently by the Holy See with another Asian country, with which it does not have diplomatic relations either: Vietnam.


Also with this objective, another of Cardinal Zuppi’s next tasks would be a visit to Beijing. The context that would be taken advantage of is the current situation in Ukraine and Cardinal Zuppi’s condition as the Pope’s Delegate for this matter. Given that Cardinal Zuppi has already visited Kiev, Moscow and Washington, the next step is Beijing, which could play an important role in the peace process. 


If Cardinal Zuppi were to succeed in this endeavour, he would be the third Cardinal to visit China officially since 1980 (the first was Cardinal Roger Etchegaray and the second, the then Cardinal Theodore McCarrick). Since Mao’s dictatorship in China, that country and the Vatican have not had diplomatic relations. In fact, the Communists expelled the Pope’s Nuncio. At present there is a permanent Papal Representative in Hong Kong, as that territory enjoys a certain autonomy. 

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Jorge Enrique Mújica

Licenciado en filosofía por el Ateneo Pontificio Regina Apostolorum, de Roma, y “veterano” colaborador de medios impresos y digitales sobre argumentos religiosos y de comunicación. En la cuenta de Twitter: https://twitter.com/web_pastor, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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