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Pope urges "fraternal" dialogue with China, others

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 16, 2014 at 11:10 pm •  Published: August 16, 2014
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SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Pope Francis made a new gesture of outreach to China and North Korea on Sunday, saying he "earnestly" hopes to improve relations and insisting that the Catholic Church isn't coming in as a "conquerer" trying to take away the identity of others.

Francis outlined his priorities for the Catholic Church in Asia during a meeting of the region's bishops Sunday, urging them to listen to people of different cultures but still remain true to their own Catholic identity.

"In this spirit of openness to others, I earnestly hope that those countries of your continent with whom the Holy See does not yet enjoy a full relationship may not hesitate to further a dialogue for the benefit of all," he said.

Then deviating from his text, he added: "I'm not talking here only about a political dialogue, but about a fraternal dialogue," he said. "These Christians aren't coming as conquerors, they aren't trying to take away our identity." He said the important thing was to "walk together."

The comments appeared to be a clear reference to China, which severed diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1951. But they could also apply to North Korea, where the church is under tight government control and is not recognized by the Vatican. There are similarly no diplomatic relations between Pyongyang and the Vatican.

Francis has already broken ground with Beijing on his first Asian trip by sending greetings to President Xi Jinping when he flew through Chinese airspace. He also sent Xi a letter after the two of them were elected within hours of one another in March 2013, and received a reply.

China cut relations with the Vatican after the Communist Party took power and set up its own church outside the pope's authority. China persecuted the church for years until restoring a degree of religious freedom and freeing imprisoned priests in the late 1970s. The Vatican under then-Pope Benedict XVI sought to improve ties by seeking to unify the state-sanctioned church with the underground church still loyal to Rome.

For the Vatican, the main stumbling block remains the insistence of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association on naming bishops without papal consent. For China, the naming of bishops is a matter of its national sovereignty, while it also objects that the Holy See has diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

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