China on Wednesday expressed willingness to carry on “dialogue and cooperation” with the Vatican as Pope Francis arrived in Kazakhstan at the same time as Chinese President Xi Jinping, who is making his first foreign visit since the coronavirus pandemic.
Asked during his flight to Kazakhstan about a possible meeting with Xi, the pope said, “I don’t have any news about this but I am always ready to go to China.”
Commenting on the pope’s remarks at a daily briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Mao Ning said her government “appreciate the goodwill.”
Mao dismissed the question that whether Xi has plans to meet with Francis during his trip but said Beijing maintained “good communication” with the Vatican and sought to promote the improvement of ties.
The two have been in the same vicinity before and not met, including New York for the United Nations General Assembly in 2015 and Xi’s visit to Italy in 2019.
The Vatican and China haven’t had diplomatic relations for a half century and the timing is somewhat tense, with the two sides finalizing the renewal of a controversial deal over the nominations of Catholic bishops in China.
Mao also announced that China was thinking about sending a “high-level delegation” to the state funeral of Queen Elizabeth II next week, without giving more details.
The queen’s coffin will be taken from Westminster Hall to nearby Westminster Abbey for a state funeral that begins at 11 a.m. on Monday. Leaders and dignitaries from around the world are expected to attend.
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