ROME: Relations between China and the Catholic Church are “in a positive phase” even if a lasting thaw is not yet in sight, Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said Wednesday.
China is home to tens of millions of Christians, but the Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951, two years after the founding of the communist People’s Republic.
Attempts to restore ties have floundered over Beijing’s insistence that the Vatican must give up its recognition of Taiwan and promise not to interfere in religious issues in China.
But in February, Pope Francis lavished praise on China in a move widely seen as part of Vatican moves to improve relations, pointedly avoiding any mention of Chinese restrictions on freedom of worship.
“Right now we are in a positive phase, there are signs that the two parties have the will to pursue a dialogue and to work together to find solutions to the problem of the presence of the Catholic Church in this huge country,” Parolin, the Vatican’s number two, told San Francesco magazine.
“Personally, I would dare to say that the prospects are promising and we hope that these seeds will bloom and bear fruit for the good of China and the whole world,” the Italian cardinal added.
He acknowledged that the dialogue between China and the Vatican “is a long path, which has known both highs and lows. It is not over yet and it will finish when God wants it to.”
San Francesco magazine, run by the Franciscan Order in Assisi, central Italy, will be available in China for the first time at the end of the month.
China’s ruling Communist Party is suspicious of religion, and some Chinese Christians worship at “underground” churches seeking to avoid government control.