It’s not fair to call China ‘undemocratic’


ROME — Pope Francis has rejected the label “undemocratic” to describe China’s communist regime, insisting the issue is too complex to allow such characterizations.

“I cannot agree to call China undemocratic; I won’t because it’s such a complex country,” the pontiff told reporters on his return trip from Kazakhstan to Rome on Thursday. “Of course, there are things that seem undemocratic to us, it’s true.”

“Labelling is difficult and I’m not ready to do it because it’s impressions, so I’m trying to support the path of dialogue instead,” he said.

“Understanding China takes a century, and we don’t live a century,” the pope said. “The Chinese mentality is a rich mentality, and when it gets a little sick, it loses its wealth; he is capable of making mistakes.

“To understand, we have chosen the path of dialogue, open to dialogue,” he added.

Francis said that “the bilateral Vatican-China commission is going well, slowly, because the Chinese pace is slow, they have an eternity to move forward: they are a people of endless patience”, in part in reference to the Sino-Vatican agreement of 2018. on the appointment of the country’s bishops, which must be renewed next month.

“It’s not easy to understand the Chinese mentality, but it should be respected, I always respect that,” he said. “And here in the Vatican there is a commission for dialogue that is going well, chaired by Cardinal Parolin and he is the person at the moment who knows the most about China and dialogue with the Chinese.”

“It’s a slow process, but steps forward are still being made,” he added, reiterating his unwavering belief in the power of dialogue.

“There are different cultures in China, it’s a giant, and understanding China is a huge thing,” the pope said. “But you have to be patient; it takes a lot, but you have to go with the dialogue, I try to refrain from labeling it.

Asked specifically about the upcoming arrest and trial of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, and whether it constitutes a violation of religious freedom, the pope objected.

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun and Pope Francis (ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images)

“Cardinal Zen will be judged these days, I think,” he said. “And he says how he feels and you can see there are limits there.”

Francis has often expressed his desire to visit China, most recently telling reporters on his flight to Kazakhstan on Tuesday, “I’m always ready to go to China.”




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