Pope writes to China again: “God bless your country”

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Pope writes to China again: “God bless your country”

By Domenico Agasso Jr

He already sent a message on his way to Korea but Francis didn’t want to miss out on another chance to show his willingness for dialogue with the People’s Republic of China. On the return flight back to Rome, the Pope composed another telegram to the country's president, Xi Jinping: “Returning to Rome after my visit to Korea, I wish to renew to your Excellency and your fellow citizens the assurance of my best wishes, as I invoke divine blessings upon your land,” the Pope wrote, as he flew through Chinese airspace.

No other Pope before him had ever flown over China until last Wednesday. Nor had a group of young Chinese people ever attended a meeting with the Pope before this year’s Asian Youth Day. The event was attended by 60 Chinese participants whose presence had been officially confirmed by the organisers, plus another 240 young people from the People’s Republic of China, 400 from Taiwan, 550 from Hong Kong and twenty from Macao. The young Chinese Catholics who were not part of the official delegation made it to the event despite the bureaucratic hurdles the government put in front of them. They each organised their trips independently and only later on did they communicate their presence at Asian Youth Day event via social networks.

On last Wednesday’s flight to Seoul, Francis wrote the following message to President Xi Jinping: "Upon entering Chinese air space, I extend best wishes to Your Excellency and your fellow citizens and I invoke the divine blessing of peace and well-being upon the nation." His gesture received a positive response from China, with China’s foreign ministry spokesman, Hua Chunying, replying: "We have noticed the remarks of Pope Francis. China has always been sincere in improving relations with the Vatican and has been making positive efforts for that.” Mathew Zhen Xuebi, an unofficial spokesman for the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association – which in China represents a sort of “autocephalous” Church in constant conflict with the country’s “underground” Church which is in communion with Rome – spoke of “a step forward in advancing communication: We have hope that one day the two countries of China and the Vatican will establish diplomatic ties and that the pope will be able to visit China,” the priest said.

Pope Francis’ South Korean voyage has now come to an end. This was his third apostolic pilgrimage outside Italy, after his visits to the Brazilian capital of Rio de Janeiro for the World Youth Day and to the Holy Land. Five days, five different locations, ten speeches, meetings with thousands of young people in Daejeon and Haemi. An extended olive branch to Asian cultures and States in the pursuit of human, not only diplomatic, dialogue, looking towards China and North Korea. Strong support for the Korean Church built by the laity. Pastoral advice for solidarity, inclusion, support to vulnerable members of society. These were the elements that marked Francis’ visit.

The papal flight took off from Seoul at 1 pm local time. Francis is due to arrive at Rome’s Ciampino airport at 5:45 CET, after an 11 hour flight.

The Archbishop of Seoul, Cardinal Andrew Yeon Soo-jung asked Francis to “pray for our commitment to achieving full peace in our peninsula and the world.” He thanked the Pope for “showing the Church in its best light at all times.”

It is likely that the Pope will hold an on board press conference with the 72 journalists from 11 countries who are travelling back to Rome with him.

Mon, 08/18/2014 - 21:24
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