Xi Jinping to visit Italy, media speculates on possible meeting with Pope Francis

The Chinese leader will be in Italy March 21-24, some media outlets claim he will visit the Vatican

File photo: Xi Jinping

File photo: Xi Jinping (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, will be visiting Italy from March 21-24, and there is some speculation that the Communist party leader may attempt to arrange a diplomatic visit with Pope Francis in the Vatican City.

As of Monday, March 12, the Pope has no official engagements scheduled for March 21-23, so there is a potential for the two leaders to meet, however the Foreign Ministry of the Holy See has stated that there are currently no plans for Xi Jinping to visit the Vatican.

Over the past year, there has been concern that the Vatican, which currently the only European State to maintain official diplomatic ties with Taiwan, is moving closer to Beijing.

Last year in September 2018, Beijing successfully made a deal with the Holy See which would permit the Chinese Communist Party, officially an atheist organization, to appoint its own Bishops to administer official Church affairs in China.

The agreement has disappointed many Catholics in China and throughout Asia. However, the Vatican has defended its decision as necessary to maintain access to the millions of Catholics living under China’s communist regime.

The Vatican has also claimed that the new arrangement with Beijing will not endanger or impact ties between the Holy See and Taiwan.

In response to some media reports that have claimed a meeting between Pope Francis and Xi Jinping has already been arranged, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Andrew Lee (李憲章), says that there is no indication yet that such is the case, reports Liberty Times.

Taiwan will maintain close contact with the Vatican, and will monitor future developments, said Lee.