Renewed hope for Sino-Vatican relations post Pope Francis’ Asia tour.
When China allowed Pope Francis to pass through their airspace en route to South Korea last week, it was taken as a positive indication that there was still hope for better Sino-Vatican relations. The Pope is the first pontiff to have been permitted to enter the Chinese airspace since 1989.
The Pope had also sent a telegram of blessings to the Chinese premier Xi Jinping from his flight last Thursday. To this the Chinese foreign ministry responded positively, saying that Beijing was “sincere about wanting to improve relations with the Vatican.”
On his return flight to Rome on Sunday, August 18, 2014, the Pope sent another telegram to Xi upon entering the Chinese airspace, renewing his blessings.
Sino-Vatican ties were severed in 1951, two years after the Communist Party took over. With Pope Francis sending his message of reconciliation, there seem to be high hopes of a harmonious resumption of dialogue between the Vatican and the country. So far, China has not responded to the second message.
Currently, there are two key obstacles in the way of restoring Sino-Vatican diplomatic ties.
Firstly, the Vatican is the only European state that maintains diplomatic ties with Taiwan, with a diplomatic mission in Taipei. Secondly, the fact that China wants to appoint its own bishops also proves to be difficult.
China, at present, has about 5.7 million Catholic followers, maybe even more, with many attending underground churches. In order for the Vatican to renew its ties with China, it may have to sever ties with Taipei.
Photo Credits: TIME