The Vatican has declined to comment on speculation that the Pope will meet with Chinese officials during his visit to South Korea.
Quoting an anonymous source, the Italian newsite www.Lettera43.it yesterday claimed that Pope Francis would meet members of China’s Communist Party during his visit to South Korea August 14-18. He said that after North Korea, the hope is that the Chinese presidency “will invite the pontiff to Beijing.”
“If he wanted to, the Pope could spend a day in North Korea and one in China and bring his message of peace,” allowing the Pope to help “heal the wounds” of the Church, and even those of history, the source said.
The Holy See continues to work with China to help improve the plight of the country’s Catholics who continue to be forced to worship underground. The communist nation’s bishops have refused to recognize the authority of the Holy See for over 50 years. But although the process has been slow, both parties continue to push for good relations.
Meanwhile, beneath the oppression, the underground Catholic community grows, and the number of those seeking approval from the Holy See is increasing. Observers say the time when Mao Ze Dong called religion “poison” is becoming ever more remote.
Benedict XVI took a number of initiatives to raise his voice in defense of the persecuted and in 2007 addressed a letter to Chinese Catholics in which he denounced the attitude of the communist regime and the lack of recognition of priests. He kept the dialogue vigilant and open, despite the tough resistance within a substantial part of the Roman Curia.
Twenty-fours after Francis was elected Pope, Chinese President Xi Jinping officially became leader of the People’s Republic, on March 14, 2013. Some believe Xi will force an epochal transition of Chinese society and global leadership to rethink the role of China in the world, but many remain skeptical.
On the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre which falls today, the country has yet to enjoy democracy, restrictions on freedom of assembly and limits to free speech continue, and systematic human rights abuses including forced abortion reportedly remain widespread.