“Pope Francis loves China and loves the people of China, its history and population,” Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, a chancellor of the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy of Sciences, said Thursday, according to the state-run Global Times.
Sorondo, who is considered a close friend of Francis, confirmed to AFP Friday that he made these remarks.
The Vatican and China do not maintain diplomatic relations, but since becoming head of the Holy See in 2013 Pope Francis has tried to mend ties with Beijing in the hope of reconnecting with Catholics in China.
Negotiations between the two sides have been stymied by the issue of appointing bishops.
The country’s roughly 12 million believers are divided between those loyal to Beijing, whose clergy are chosen by the Communist Party, and members of a so-called “underground” church which swears allegiance to the Vatican. [More]