ASIA TIMES EXCLUSIVE: Pope Francis urges world not to fear China's rise in interview with AT columnist Francesco Sisci

Pope Francis has spoken for the first time to the Chinese people in a historic interview in which he shares his thoughts on global concerns about China's development. On the eve of the Chinese New Year, he urges the world not to fear China's fast rise, says the Chinese people are in a positive moment and delivers a message of hope, peace and conciliation as an alternative to war, hot or cold

Feb 02, 2016, 09:10 ET from Asia Times

HONG KONG and NEW YORK, Feb. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Pope Francis has given his first-ever interview on China to Hong Kong-based Asian geopolitical and financial news website Asia Times (AT).

The Pope stressed the common interest of China and the Holy See for peace and the urgent need for dialogue between cultures and civilizations, in a one-hour interview at the Vatican on Jan. 28 with Asia Times columnist and China Renmin University senior research associate Francesco Sisci.

"For me, China has always been a reference point of greatness. A great country. But more than a country, a great culture with an inexhaustible wisdom," the leader of the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics told Asia Times in an exclusive interview published Tuesday on AT's website (

The Pope also conveyed to China's common people his empathy for the current challenges they face: the destruction of the traditional family, their difficulty in understanding and being understood by the Western world, as well as the lingering scars of the Cultural Revolution.  

At the close of the interview, the Pope delivered New Year's greetings to President Xi Jinping and the Chinese people. It was the first Chinese New Year's greeting sent by a Pope to a Chinese leader for the lunar new year in 2,000 years.

"I asked for an interview on the broad cultural and philosophical issues concerning all Chinese people, over 99% of whom are not Catholic," said Sisci who interviewed Pope Francis in a Vatican hall decorated with a painting of the Holy Mary Undoer of Knots in which Mary performs the miracle of untying impossible knots.

"The Pope believes the Chinese are in a positive moment, and they should not be scared of this moment, nor should the world be afraid of China. He also believes the Chinese have a great legacy of wisdom that will enrich them and the rest of the world, and will help everyone to find a peaceful path forward," Sisci added.

Sisci's interview with the Pope takes place against the backdrop of rising tensions between the US and China over territorial issues in the South China Sea and western media reports of Chinese harassment of Christians and other religious minorities inside China.

More excerpts from the papal interview:

"What message can I give to the Chinese people? The history of a people is always a path. A people at times walks more quickly, at times more slowly, at times it pauses, at times it makes a mistake and goes backwards a little, or takes the wrong path and has to retrace its steps to follow the right way. But when a people moves forward this does not worry me because it means they are making history. And I believe that the Chinese people are moving forward and this is their greatness."

"And it is true, the problem for China of not having children must be very painful; because the pyramid is then inverted and a child has to bear the burden of his father, mother, grandfather and grandmother. And this is exhausting, demanding, disorienting. It is not the natural way. I understand that China has opened up possibilities on this front."

"The Western world, the Eastern world and China all have the capacity to maintain the balance of peace and the strength to do so. We must find a way, always through dialogue; there is no other way."

Francesco Sisci is a veteran Asia Times columnist and a senior research associate of China Renmin University. The author of Asia Times' Sinograph column, he was also Asia Editor for the Italian daily La Stampa, Beijing correspondent for Ill Sole di 24 Ore, and has written for numerous Italian and international publications. He was the first foreigner admitted to the graduate program of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the author of eight books on China and a frequent commentator on CCTV.

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