Pope greets Chinese faithful in symbolic gesture

25th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

25 May 2005, VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI saluted a group of Chinese faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday in an unscheduled but highly symbolic gesture amid reports of thawing ties between the Vatican and China.

25 May 2005

VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI saluted a group of Chinese faithful gathered in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday in an unscheduled but highly symbolic gesture amid reports of thawing ties between the Vatican and China.

The 78-year-old pontiff went out of his way to personally greet a group of disabled from the diocese of Hong Kong dressed in traditional Chinese clothes. The pope then had his picture taken with them, the Ansa news agency reported.

The unscheduled move appeared to reinforce suggestions that Benedict is seeking to improve relationship with China, at the risk of severing ties with Taiwan.

The Vatican moved its embassy in Beijing to Taipei in the 1950s after Communist China founded its own patriotic church and appointed its own bishops. And the Holy See is one of just 26 countries which recognise Taiwan, seat of the exiled Republic of China since 1949, and which Beijing considers a breakaway province.

Rumours that the Vatican has stepped up its effort to re-establish ties with China have been flying since Joseph Ratzinger's election as pope, on 19 April.

The German pope all but made his intentions clear earlier this month, when during an address to the diplomatic corps he expressed his hope that the Vatican would soon establish diplomatic ties with those countries not yet represented at the Apostolic See.

Earlier on Wednesday, Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican dismissed press reports that the Vatican has decided to drop Taiwan to recognise China, saying Taiwan-Vatican ties remained solid for the time being.

In his report on Taiwan-Vatican ties to parliament, Ambassador Tu Chu-sheng said "there is a long way to go" before the Vatican can normalise ties with China.

Tu said the main obstacle to the Vatican and China's opening ties remained China's repression of religious freedom and its barring the pope from appointing bishops for China.

China has expressed willingness to restore ties with the Vatican, on condition that the Vatican cut ties with Taiwan, that it does not meddle in China's internal affairs and that it allows China to appoint its own bishops.

At the end of Wednesday's general audience in St. Peter's Square, which was attended by nearly 30,000 faithful, Benedict also met a group of Jews and held talks with the presidents of Burkina Faso and Mali and the prime minister of Swaziland.

DPA

Subject: German news

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