Thu, Mar 21, 2019 - Page 1 News List

Vatican makes overtures on eve of Xi’s Italy visit


Pope Francis waves to hearing and speech-impaired people at the end of the weekly general audience yesterday in the Vatican.

Photo: AFP

The Vatican is greeting Chinese President Xi Jinping’s (習近平) visit to Italy this week with a new round of overtures and said that the “door is always open” to dialogue.

Italian media have been speculating for days about the possibility of a meeting between Xi and Pope Francis during Xi’s visit from today to Sunday, but there has been no word from either side.

China and the Holy See have not had diplomatic relations for more than a half-century.

When asked on Tuesday about Xi’s visit, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said: “Our door is always open.”

However, he added that both sides would have to express a willingness to meet.

At a briefing yesterday, Chinese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Chao (王超) said that the sides were working on improving relations based on “constructive dialogue” and “building mutual trust.”

Wang gave no word about any meetings between Xi and the pope or any new agreements to be signed.

In a preface to a new book on Vatican-China relations — the publication of which was timed to coincide with Xi’s visit — Parolin said that it is time to “remember the past and write together a new page for the future of the church in China.”

“The Catholic Church in China is not a ‘foreigner,’ but an integral and active part of Chinese history, and can contribute to the edification of a society that is more harmonious and respectful of all,” he wrote.

“Today, the hope of Pope Francis is that, after so many difficulties, misunderstandings and sufferings, the Catholic community, too, can intone in the Middle Kingdom through sincere dialogue a hymn of faith and thanksgiving, enriched by authentically Chinese notes,” he wrote.

The book was the latest initiative by the Vatican-affiliated Jesuit magazine La Civilta Cattolica to lay the intellectual and cultural foundations for improved Vatican-China ties.

As part of that effort, the magazine teamed up with the Jesuit-run Georgetown University in Washington to launch an ongoing series of talks titled “China Forum for Civilizational Dialogue.”

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