ROME — Pope Francis dreams of being the pontiff who will establish diplomatic relations with Beijing, and to achieve this goal he is willing to make “concessions,” asserts Vatican analyst Alban Mikozy.
“Pope Francis is a prudent man,” Mikozy told French television. “He pursues a dream: to be the sovereign pontiff who will restore relations between China and the Vatican.”
“In order to do this, he is ready to make a few concessions: say nothing about Hong Kong, do not get too excited when the Chinese leader talks about rewriting the Bible,” he added, in reference to announcements that the Chinese Communist Party intends to retranslate the Bible and other sacred texts to make them conform to socialist ideology.
Observers were quick to notice the pope’s omission of Hong Kong in his long list of troubled situations around the world in his traditional Christmas “Urbi et Orbi” message Wednesday.
Among the many held up for their suffering, the pope mentioned “the Middle East,” the “beloved Syrian people,” “the Lebanese people,” “Iraq,” “Yemen,” “the whole American continent,” “the beloved Venezuelan people,” “beloved Ukraine,” “the people of Africa,” “the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” “Burkina Faso,” “Mali,” “Niger,” “Nigeria,” along with three separate shout-outs to migrants.
Yet Hong Kong, embroiled over the last six months in an ever more violent conflict between pro-democracy protesters and the Communist China-backed government forces, received no papal acknowledgment whatsoever.
According to Mr. Mikozy, the pope’s silence reflects his overriding desire to go to China and his willingness to make compromises in order to avoid offending Xi Jinping.
“A few months ago, the Chinese authorities sent the message that a meeting was possible,” Mikozy said. “The pope said he was ready for this possibility. For the moment, it is the hardliners of the Chinese regime who have held Xi Jinping back.”
This interpretation seems to jibe with other recent actions by the pontiff.
During an in-flight press conference returning from Asia in late November, for example, the pope reiterated his desire to visit China while dodging questions regarding the Hong Kong protests.
“I would like to go to Beijing,” Francis said. “I love China.”
Asked his opinion on the growing unrest in Hong Kong, the pope insisted that the situation was not unique and needed to be “relativized.”
“It’s not just Hong Kong,” he said. “Think of Chile, think of France — the democratic France with a year of yellow vests — think of Nicaragua, think of the other Latin American countries, Brazil, which is struggling, and also any European country. It’s a generalized thing.”
“There are several issues that have problems and I am not able to evaluate them right now,” he said.