Good reception for Pope Francis in China press
Aug. 13, 2013
The Chinese media has reported on Pope Francis in “an honest, objective way” in these first four months of his pontificate “and that is already unusual”, according to Cardinal John Tong Hon, the bishop of Hong Kong. The reporting is “neutral”, he told me during his recent visit to Rome. He considers it “significant” that it never “faults” the new Pope.
Pope Francis “has made a good impression” on Chinese Catholics, he said. He recalled that when he returned to Hong Kong after the conclave last March “many people” came up to him in church, or stopped him on the street, “to thank God that the cardinals elected such a good pope”. They told him, “It’s God’s blessing for us”. Tong was the only cardinal to give a gift to the new Holy Father in the Sistine Chapel after his election on March 13.
He told me that at lunch that day he had come to realize that the cardinals could elect the new pope that same afternoon, and so he put into his pocket a small bronze statue of Our Lady of Sheshan, which he had brought with him from Hong Kong.
When his turn came to greet the new Holy Father, he took the statue out of his pocket and gave it to him and said: “The Church in Hong Kong and China loves you!” Then as he went to kiss the Pope’s hand, Francis kissed his hand. “I was shocked”, the cardinal told me. He revealed that Pope Francis did the same on the day when he bade him farewell as he left the Vatican for Hong Kong, and told him “The Church in China is in my heart.”??
The Chinese cardinal believes Pope Francis has started his ministry very well with his spontaneous, human approach to people and his “great concern for the poor”. He is particularly happy with the way Francis has spoken, on a number of occasions, about China and the Church in China, reaching out in a friendly, open way.
Despite the present stalemate in Sino-Vatican relations, the cardinal is optimistic about the future of this relationship. “I am always optimistic. Some would say I am naive, but I am optimistic that with new leadership in the Vatican and Beijing a gradual development can take place in relations between China and the Holy See,” he said.
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