After Pope Francis spoke warmly about a possible trip to China, NCR reports that some officials in Beijing were “quick to warn the Vatican not to ‘interfere’ with the country’s religion.”
According to NCR, on his way back from South Korea Pope Francis mentioned his desire to go to China while saying: “We respect the Chinese people…the church only asks for liberty for its task, for its work.”
The Chinese government severed diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1951. China has consistently demanded that the Holy See not interfere in matters of religion in China and break diplomatic ties with Taiwan before diplomatic relations can be reestablished.
In 2007 and 2008 relations with China appeared to be improving; however, the relationship has soured in recent years, especially after the Chinese government put Thaddeus Ma Daqin under house arrest. Ma Daqin was appointed auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in 2012 after being approved by both the Holy See and the Chinese Government. He resigned from the government mandated Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association at his ordination Mass and has since been under house arrest.
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association had this to say about the pope’s statement: “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.”
Only time will tell if Pope Francis’ charm and charisma can soften the hearts of officials in Beijing, just as he has warmed the hearts of many across the world.