Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna Photo: Vatican Media

For The First Time in Francis’ Pontificate, a Cardinal Officially Visits China

The last Cardinals to visit officially or semi-officially China were Roger Etchegaray and Theodore McCarrick (now without a Cardinal’s hat and reduced to the lay state).

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(ZENIT News / Rome, 12.09.2023).- Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, Archbishop of Bologna and President of the Italian Episcopal Conference, will make an official visit to Beijing, in Pope Francis’ name, from September 13-15, 2023. The diplomatic aspect of the visit is highlighted by the fact that that on this trip Cardinal Zuppi is accompanied  by officials of the Vatican State Secretariat, specifically, of the Holy See’s area concerned with relations with countries. As is known, China and the Vatican have not had diplomatic relations since 1951, year in which diplomatic relations were severed at the height of State Communism in China.

Cardinal Zuppi is going to China, however, with a primary objective that differs from the re-establishment of diplomatic relations. Neither is the appointment of Catholic Bishops in China a priority on this visit, a subject addressed confidentially between the Communist Government and the Vatican State Secretariat, with not a few adversities in recent years.

The objective of the visit of the Pope’s official envoy is in the framework of the peace mission that the Holy Father entrusted to Cardinal Zuppi. After visits to the capitals of Ukraine, Russia and the United States, now it’s the turn of an important international geopolitical agent: specifically China. Questioned about China’s role in Ukraine’s peace, Cardinal Zuppi said on September 11: “It must be a  peace chosen by the Ukrainians with the guarantees, the commitment and the effort of all. And it’s clear that China is, perhaps, one of the most important elements.” For its part, stated in a press release sent to ZENIT Agency by the Holy See Press Office: “The visit [of the Pope’s envoy, edn.] is one more step in the mission desired by the Pope to support humanitarian initiatives and the quest for paths that might lead to a just peace.”

It’s true that this official trip makes possible some additional causes for the Pope’s envoy to approach: one of them, perhaps among the main ones, is to obtain from Beijing’s Government an official diplomatic representation in the Chinese capital (similar to the one achieved in mid 2023 in Vietnam, country with which the Holy See does not have diplomatic relations either), in view of a closeness that inspires greater trust between the two sides.

The last Cardinals to make an official or semi-official visit to China were Roger Etchegaray and Theodore McCarrick (now without a Cardinal’s hat and reduced to the lay state).

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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:, habla de Dios e internet y Church and media: evangelidigitalización."

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