Pope Francis wishes a happy New Year to China, urges peace dialogue

(Photo: REUTERS / Kim Kyung-Hoon)Children attend a Christmas mass at a Catholic church in Beijing December 24, 2014. Christmas is not a traditional festival in China but is growing in popularity, especially in more metropolitan areas where young people go out to celebrate, give gifts and decorate their homes.

Pope Francis has sent a greetings' message to China for its upcoming New Year saying he hopes the world's most populous nation will contribute to international dialogue and peace for the human family.

The message for the Chinese New Year on Feb. 8 is contained in an interview the Argentine pontiff had with the Asia Times newspaper in Hong Kong that is carried on the website of the Holy See.

The Pope took the opportunity to express his wishes to President Xi Jinping and all the Chinese people, for the Year of the Monkey, expressing his high esteem for the nation and its culture.

Francis was asked, "What is China for you? How did you imagine China to be as a young man, given that China, for Argentina, is not the East but the far West?"

Francis said, "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.

For me, as a boy, whenever I read anything about China, it had the capacity to inspire my admiration.

"It is a land blessed with many things. And the Catholic Church, one of whose duties is to respect all civilizations, before this civilization, I would say, has the duty to respect it with a capital "R". The Church has great potential to receive culture".

Asia Times: "China, for the first time in its thousands of years of history, is emerging from its own environment and opening to the world, creating unprecedented challenges for itself and for the world. You have spoken of a third world war that is furtively advancing: what challenges does this present in the quest for peace?"

Pope Francis: "Being afraid is never a good counsellor. ... And it is obvious that so much culture and so much wisdom, and in addition, so much technical knowledge - we have only to think of age-old medicinal techniques - cannot remain enclosed within a country; they tend to expand, to spread, to communicate.

"Man tends to communicate, a civilization tends to communicate. It is evident that when communication happens in an aggressive tone to defend oneself, then wars result.

"But I would not be fearful. It is a great challenge to keep the balance of peace. ... 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 the way, always through dialogue; there is no other way.

"Encounter is achieved through dialogue. The true balance of peace is realized through dialogue. Dialogue does not mean that we end up with a compromise, half the cake for you and the other half for me.

"This is what happened in Yalta [at the end of the Second World War] and we saw the results.


"No, dialogue means: look, we have got to this point, I may or may not agree, but let us walk together; this is what it means to build. And the cake stays whole, walking together. The cake belongs to everyone, it is humanity, culture. Carving up the cake, as in Yalta, means dividing humanity and culture into small pieces. And culture and humanity cannot be carved into small pieces".

Asked if he had a New Year message for the Chinese people, the pontiff replied, "The aging of a population ... is happening in many places. ... Perhaps behind this there is the fear you are alluding to, the mistaken perception, not that we will simply fall behind, but that we will fall into misery, so therefore, let's not have children.

"There are other societies that have opted for the contrary. For example, during my trip to Albania, I was astonished to discover that the average age of the population is approximately 40 years. ... Countries that have suffered and opt for youth.

"Then there is the problem of work. Something that China does not have, because it has the capacity to offer work both in the countryside and in the city.

"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, disorientating. It is not the natural way. I understand that China has opened up possibilities on this front."

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