Thursday, 4 February 2016

Pope Francis came under fire Wednesday after
lavishing praise on China in a move widely seen as
part of Vatican moves to improve relations with
Beijing.
Close watchers of the Holy See were taken by
surprise by the content of an interview with the
Asia Times in which the Argentinian pontiff said the
world need not fear China’s growing power and
avoided any mention of human rights or the
restrictions on Catholics and other Christians’
freedom of worship in the world’s most populous
nation.
“A superb example of Realpolitik pushed to the
extreme,” was the verdict of Sandro Magister, one
of Italy’s leading Vatican experts.
Writing on his blog for Italian weekly L’Espresso,
Magister lamented Francis’s “total silence” on
questions of religion and freedom and what he
interpreted as an “unrestrained absolution” of the
Chinese communist regime’s historical record.
In the interview, Francis said China had always
been, for him, a “reference point of greatness” and
“a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom.”
The Argentinian pope made only the lightest of
allusions to China’s troubled recent history, saying
a people sometimes “makes a mistake and goes
backwards a little, or takes the wrong path and
has to retrace its steps to follow the right way.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said
the pope’s remarks had been noted. “We also hope
that the Vatican can take a flexible, pragmatic
attitude to creating conditions for improving ties,”
he said.
The Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with
China since 1951, with the rupture having come
only two years after the founding of the People’s
Republic.

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