”The Chinese people are moving forward, and this is their greatness,” Pope Francis told an interviewer for the Asia Times, observing that China, like all societies, moves “through lights and shadows.”
The Pope sent his New Year’s greetings to the people of China, as they approach the beginning of the Year of the Monkey. In his exchange with Francesco Sisci of Asia Times, he emphasized his “great respect” for Chinese culture. “The great richness of China today,” he said, “lies in looking to the future from a present that is sustained by the memory of its cultural past.”
The Pope did not address political questions in the interview. The conversation remained on a theoretical level, concentrating on broad cultural matters. The issues that have troubled relations between Rome and Beijing– notably religious freedom and the appointment of bishops– were not discussed.
However the Pontiff did indirectly address the Beijing government’s notorious “one-child” policy, which has recently been relaxed to allow parents to have two children. Pope Francis spoke about the consequences of that policy, which are evident in an aging population. He remarked that “not having children must be very painful; because the pyramid is then inverted and a child has to bear the burden of his father, mother, grandfather, and grandmother.” The demographic inversion, he said, “is exhausting, demanding, disorientating. It is not the natural way.”
Speaking of the need for dialogue between different cultures, the Pope offered an unusual explanation of what that cultural exchange should be:
Dialogue does not mean that we end up with a compromise, half the cake for you and the other half for me. This is what happened in Yalta and we saw the results. No, dialogue means: look, we have got to this point, I may or may not agree, but let us walk together; this is what it means to build. And the cake stays whole, walking together.