Vatican proposed Xi-Pope meeting in Kazakhstan, but China declined: source

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The Vatican told China that Pope Francis was willing to meet President Xi Jinping when the two were in the Kazakh capital, but Beijing replied that there was not enough time for a meeting. a Vatican source said on Thursday.

The source did not elaborate on how or when the Vatican reached out to China, with which it is engaged in a delicate dialogue over the status of the Catholic Church in the country.

The source said the Vatican brought “an expression of readiness.” The Chinese side said it “appreciated the gesture” but said there was no free time on Xi’s schedule.

Both the Pope and Xi were in Nur-Sultan on Wednesday. Xi traveled for an official visit and Francis to attend a congress of world religious leaders.

An encounter between the two men, however brief, would have been historic.

Speaking to journalists accompanying him on his flight to the central Asian republic on Tuesday, Francis was asked if he could meet Xi, to which the pope replied: “I have no news on that,” without elaborating. .

When asked if he was willing to go to China, Francis replied: “I am always willing to go to China.”

The pope has tried to ease historically bad relations between the Holy See and China, telling Reuters in an interview in July that he hoped to renew a secret and disputed agreement on the appointment of Roman Catholic bishops in China.

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