After ending his Asia trip to Bangladesh and Myanmar on the evening of December 2, 2017, Pope Francis said in an interview, "I believe that a trip to China will do everyone well, I would love to do it!"
The WeChat account named "Faith Videos of Catholic Audio-visual Website" quoted the report from People's Daily Overseas or Haiwai.net that the pontiff was asked whether a trip to China was in the works an hour before his plane took off.
Pope answered, "The trip to China is not in the works."
However, he expressed willingness to visit China when he was told that his plane passed through China's airspace on the way to South Korea on August 14, 2014.
"Then there is the political dialogue, especially for the Chinese Church: one must go step by step with delicacy, slowly and patiently. The doors of the heart are open." Pope said.
The Catholic News Service Roman bureau claimed that the Vatican was interested in building its relationship with China.
American media reported that Pope Francis and his predecessor Pope Benedict XVI regarded establishing normal relations with China as a priority, but there had always been a dispute over appointing bishops between the two sides.
"Cultural exchanges can often be easier than strict diplomatic exchanges, and that is what's happening here," said the Vatican spokesman, Greg Burke.
Earlier, a report from Vatican Radio stated that the Vatican Museums and China Culture Industrial Investment Fund would hold the first-ever exchanges of artworks for exhibits.
Zhu Jiancheng, Secretary-General of the China Fund, declared that the move would promote mutual recognition and trust and "contribute to the normalization of diplomatic relations."
"Upon entering Chinese air space, I extend best wishes to your excellency and your fellow citizens, and I invoke the divine blessings of peace and well-being upon the nation," Francis said in his greeting message to President Xi Jinping when he flew over China.
Reuters said that the permission for flying through China's airspace was seen as progress in the Vatican's relations with China because Pope Saint John Paul II had to skirt Chinese airspace during his visit to Asia.
- Translated by Karen Luo