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In overture to China, pope sends greetings to a ‘noble’ people

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ULAANBAATAR (Reuters) – Pope Francis on Sunday sent greetings to China, calling its citizens a “noble” people and asking Catholics in China to be “good Christians and good citizens”.

Francis made the unscripted comments at the end of Mass, calling up the former and current archbishops of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon and Archbishop Stephen Chow, to flank him as he spoke.

“These two brother bishops – the emeritus of Hong Kong and the current bishop of Hong Kong. I would like to take advantage of their presence to send a warm greeting to the noble Chinese people,” he said in Italian.

“I wish the best for all the (Chinese) people, to go forward, to always progress. And to Chinese Catholics I ask to be good Christians and good citizens,” he said.

On Saturday, in words that appeared to be aimed at China rather than the neighbouring country he was visiting, Francis said governments have nothing to fear from the Catholic Church because it has no political agenda.

Beijing has been following a policy of “Sinicisation” of religion, trying to root out foreign influences and enforce obedience to the Communist Party.

A landmark 2018 agreement between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops has been tenuous at best, with the Vatican complaining that Beijing has violated it several times.

(Reporting by Philip Pullella; Editing by William Mallard)

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