SHAFAQNA – Chinese officials have warned Pope Francis not to ‘interfere’ with their country’s religion, following a series of overtures from the pontiff to the officially atheist nation.
China is one of few countries that has had no diplomatic relations with the Vatican and little contact since shortly after the country’s 1949 communist revolution.
As he returned from Korea at the end of last month Francis said he wanted to visit the Communist state ‘as soon as tomorrow’.
Vice president of the state-authorised Catholic Patriotic Association Liu Yuanlong said: ‘China will always safeguard its sovereignty and territorial integrity and it never allows foreign forces to interfere with religion. The Vatican should respect China in terms of the personnel of a diocese.’
Francis spoke after receiving a positive response to two goodwill telegrams he sent to President Xi Jinping as he flew over Chinese airspace en route to Korea.
He told journalists on the plane that the Vatican respects the ‘beautiful noble and wise Chinese people’. ‘The Church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work.’
Meanwhile the Sistine Chapel Choir is set to perform on Chinese territory for the first time in September, with performances in Hong Kong, Macao and Taipei, Taiwan.
Although they are not scheduled to sing on the Chinese mainland, the authorities had to give approval for the Hong Kong concert.
While in Korea Pope Francis told Catholics from across Asia to evangelise the continent, even with others suspicious or intolerant of the church.
‘On this vast continent which is home to a great variety of cultures, the church is called to be versatile and creative in her witness to the Gospel through dialogue and openness to all,’
‘In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all,’ the pope said.