Pope Francis came under fire Wednesday after lavishing praise on China in a move widely seen as part of Vatican moves to improve relations with Beijing.
Close watchers of the Holy Father were taken by surprise by the content of an interview with the Asia Times in which the Argentinian pontiff said the world need not fear China’s growing power and avoided any mention of human rights or the restrictions on Catholics and other Christians’ freedom of worship in the world’s most populous nation.
Sandro Magister, one of Italy’s leading Vatican experts who was a major critic of the Pope’s comments, gave this verdit: This is “A superb example of Realpolitik pushed to the extreme,”
Writing on his blog for Italian weekly L’Espresso, Magister lamented Francis’s “total silence” on questions of religion and freedom and what he interpreted as an “unrestrained absolution” of the Chinese communist regime’s historical record.
In the interview, Pope Francis said China had always been, for him, a “reference point of greatness” and “a great culture, with an inexhaustible wisdom.”
The Argentinian pope made only the lightest of allusions to China’s troubled recent history, saying a people sometimes “makes a mistake and goes backwards a little, or takes the wrong path and has to retrace its steps to follow the right way.”
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said the pope’s remarks had been noted. “We also hope that the Vatican can take a flexible, pragmatic attitude to creating conditions for improving ties,” he said.
The Vatican has not had diplomatic relations with China since 1951, with the rupture having come only two years after the founding of the People’s Republic.
Pope Francis Comes Under Intense Fire Over China Comments
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