In an apparently shameless attempt at improving the Vatican’s relations with China, Pope Francis held an an interview with the Asia Times on Wednesday in which he waxed rather poetic about the Middle Kingdom.
But it would appear the Pope’s ass-kissing of China is only alienating his fellow worshippers, as the interview has been met with much shade and pouring of tea from many in the Holy See.
Here’s a taste of the Pope’s tribute to China:
For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom. For me, as a boy, whenever I read anything about China, it had the capacity to inspire my admiration. I have admiration for China. Later I looked into Matteo Ricci’s life and I saw how this man felt the same thing in the exact way I did, admiration, and how he was able to enter into dialogue with this great culture, with this age-old wisdom. He was able to “encounter” it.
When I was young, and China was spoken of, we thought of the Great Wall. The rest was not known in my homeland. But as I looked more and more into the matter, I had an experience of encounter which was very different, in time and manner, to that experienced by Ricci. Yet I came across something I had not expected. Ricci’s experience teaches us that it is necessary to enter into dialogue with China, because it is an accumulation of wisdom and history. It is a land blessed with many things. And the Catholic Church, one of whose duties is to respect all civilizations, before this civilization, I would say, has the duty to respect it with a capital “R”. The Church has great potential to receive culture.
International Catholics have thus blasted the Pope for what they perceive as his whitewashing of China, namely his diplomatic failure to mention Chinese restrictions on Christian activities.
One such critic is L’Espresso‘s Italian Vatican expert Sandro Magister, who dubbed the interview “a superb example of Realpolitik pushed to the extreme” and condemned the Pope’s apparent “unrestrained absolution” of the CCP.
Magister also directed readers to the work of fellow Catholic Gianni Criveller, a China expert based in Hong Kong who paints rather a different picture of the mainland. Criveller recently wrote about the suspicious death of underground Catholic priest Wei Heping, whose body was found in a river in Shanxi province in November.
But there are some Catholics who are less ready to roast, such as Avvenire writer Stefania Falasca, who described the Pope’s position as “the geopolitics of mercy.”
China also finds the Pope’s offering acceptable. Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said: “We also hope that the Vatican can take a flexible, pragmatic attitude to creating conditions for improving ties.”
Indeed, flexibility and pragmatism appear to be that snake Francis’s game, his interview happening purportedly on the heels of a recent visit by Chinese officials to the Vatican, on the matter of appointing some Catholic bishops in China.
By Pinky Latt