Bergoglio Grovels to Chinese Emperor but is Snubbed by Xi Jinping
One historic meeting sought, another cancelled
On the flight to Nur-Sultan, Francis made an attempt to arrange a spontaneous meeting with Xi Jinping.
(Rome) Over the past three years, the Holy See has sought a meeting between China's Communist leader Xi Jinping and Pope Francis. There were also such efforts in the run-up to the Trip to Kazakhstan. However, the red rulers in Beijing waved this off. This recalls a parallel: while one historic meeting of Francis is being sought, another was canceled by him. Years of efforts by the Holy See to bring about a meeting between the Pope and the Russian Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow were successful in 2016. A second meeting was already fixed, but in this case, it was Francis who canceled it.
Philip Pullella, Reuters' Vatican correspondent, confirmed the latest development in Vatican-China relations:
"The Vatican has told China that Pope Francis is ready to meet with President Xi Jinping when the two were in the Kazakh capital, but Beijing replied that there was not enough time for a meeting, a Vatican source said Thursday."
The source did not elaborate, Pullella said, on how or when the Vatican approached the People's Republic of China, with whom it is "engaged in a delicate dialogue about the status of the Catholic Church in the country."
The Chinese side, according to the unnamed Vatican source, has always indicated that it "appreciates the gesture." However, Xi Jinping's scheduling did not allow a meeting. China's communist ruler was in Nur-Sultan on September 14 at the same time as Francis. Xi Jinping made his first trip abroad after more than two and a half years (Corona). First, he asserted in the Kazakh capital that the People's Republic of China is interested in a "stable" Kazakhstan. The People's Republic of China is Kazakhstan's most important foreign partner after Russia. In terms of exports, China is even the first addressee. Beijing has a stake in numerous Kazakh oil and gas companies, and the gas pipelines from Turkmenistan, which are important for China, run through Kazakhstan. Turkmenistan is the largest supplier of natural gas to Beijing.
Philip Pullella commented on a possible meeting between the Pope and "Emperor Xi":
"A meeting between the two men, no matter how brief, would have been historic."
Historic would also be a visit of the Pope to Russia, which has been sought with much patience and emphasis since John Paul II. Francis seemed to be reaping the rewards when a first meeting with the Moscow Patriarch took place in Cuba in February 2016. Due to the territorial principle to which the Russian Orthodox Church adheres, the Pope's arrival on Russian soil has a significance to which fundamental questions are linked.
When asked about a meeting with Xi Jinping, Francis reacted briefly on the flight back from Nur-Sultan to Rome yesterday, saying only:
"I don't know anything about that."
On September 13, Francis had stressed on the flight to Kazakhstan:
"I'm always ready to go to China."
The extension of the secret agreement on the appointment of bishops signed in 2018 between the Holy See and the People's Republic of China seems to have been finalized since the beginning of September. The recent courtesies of Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Mao Ning on September 14th confirm this. Mao Ning is one of several press spokesmen for the Beijing Foreign Ministry. At the daily press conference, asked about Francis' statement to be ready for a visit to China, she said:
"I, too, have taken note of the relevant reports and appreciate the friendship and goodwill conveyed by Pope Francis. China and the Vatican maintain good communication. We are also ready to continue our dialogue and cooperation with the Vatican and to actively advance the process of improving relations."
However, an official confirmation that the secret agreement has been extended is still missing.
Text: Giuseppe Nardi Image: Vatican.va/fmprc. gov.cn (Screenshots)