Does the road to Beijing and Moscow pass through Kazakhstan? Probably, judging by the advances made, step by step, through the diplomacy of the Holy See on the occasion of the Sovereign Pontiff’s visit to Nour Sultan, the Kazakh capital, within the framework of the VII Congress of Spiritual Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.
Pope Francis have profited from the Kazakh stay to multiply gestures of goodwill in order to initiate a warming of relations with Russia.
It must be said that the Orthodox Patriarch of Moscow did not appreciate being called “Putin's altar boy” by the Bishop of Rome on the plane bringing him back from Canada.
Have the Russians been appeased? It is possible, judging by the good-natured attitude of Metropolitan Anthony of Volokolamsk, Patriarch Kirill’s envoy: “The possibility of a meeting [of the Patriarch] with the Pope obviously still exists, and we are convinced of its importance, but this meeting must be well prepared,” said the Orthodox prelate.
Later, on the plane that brought him back from Kazakhstan to the Vatican, Pope Francis ensured that he wanted to maintain ties with the master of the Kremlin, at the risk of suffering numerous criticisms. “I do not exclude dialogue with a country at war, whatever it may be, even if it is the aggressor,” Francis insisted, taking care to name Russia.
“Dialogue happens like that. It may smell bad, but we have to do it. Always a step forward, an outstretched hand, always! Otherwise, we are closing the door to peace. Sometimes, some do not accept the dialogue: too bad! But dialogue must always be done, at least offered, and that is good for those who offer it; it helps them to breathe,” added the Pope.
Relations with China
Vatican diplomacy has also swallowed more than one tall tale by the Chinese Government: the latest, mentioned by the Reuters news agency reveals, from a Vatican source, that Pope Francis wanted to meet President Xi Jinping, who was present in Nour Sultan, for a summit with the Kazakh head of state.
Beijing politely declined the Roman proposal, saying it “appreciated the invitation” and the Pope's words of “benevolence and cordiality,” but explained that there were “no open slots” on the agenda of the head of China.
Just before the Congress of Spiritual Leaders of World and Traditional Religions, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, secretary of the Holy See, and, as such, head of Vatican diplomacy, himself multiplied reassuring words, indicating that he was ready to close the diplomatic representation of Hong Kong: “We are waiting for a signal from Beijing which has not yet arrived,” explained the high prelate.
Asked about the issue of the nunciature in Taiwan, Msgr. Parolin replied that “nothing has changed, for the moment,” leaving the door open for further accommodations with Beijing.
On the plane bringing him back from Kazakhstan, the Pope defended, not without humor, “the path of dialogue” undertaken with China: “To understand China takes a century! There is a bilateral Vatican-Chinese commission, that is going well,” the Pope said.
And he added: “It’s slow because the Chinese pace is slow. They have an eternity to move forward. A people of infinite patience.”
Asked about the fate of Cardinal Zen, a longtime opponent of the Chinese Communist Party, whose trial began on September 19, 2022 in Hong Kong, Pope Francis remained very evasive: “Cardinal Zen is going to trial these days, I think.” He acknowledged Zen’s arrest but refused to criticize it or to defend the 90-year-old Cardinal. And he added: “He says what he feels, and you see that there are limitation there [in Hong Kon