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Pope's South Korea trip gives opportunity to reach out to China

Published on Aug 13, 2014 10:07 AM
 
On his way to South Korea, Pope Francis will get a rare opportunity to directly address China's leadership as he flies over the country, whose communist government does not allow Catholics to recognise his authority. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

VATICAN CITY (REUTERS) - On his way to South Korea, Pope Francis will get a rare opportunity to directly address China's leadership as he flies over the country, whose communist government does not allow Catholics to recognise his authority.

The pope, who leaves Rome on Wednesday, always sends telegrams to the leaders of countries as he passes through their airspace. The routine messages rarely make news, but this time there is keen expectation for what the pope will say to China.

The fact that he is being allowed to cross Chinese airspace at all - Pope John Paul II had to skirt it in his tours of Asia - is seen as a positive, if small, step forward, in the often-fraught relations between the Vatican and China.

"This is a sign of detente, for sure," said Father Bernardo Cevellera, head of the Rome-based AsiaNews agency and a specialist in the Catholic Church in China. "But the real miracle would be if (Chinese President) Xi Jinping responds with his own telegram, and what he says".

 
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