Pope Francis greeted and blessed a group of pilgrims from China who broke protocol and approached him during the Wednesday general audience.
The group of faithful, some of whom approached the Holy Father on
their knees, held Chinese flags and amid sobs, asked for him to bless a
statue of Our Lady of Fatima they had carried into Saint Peter's Square.
At first, some Swiss Guards tried to prevent the pilgrims from
approaching the pontiff, but Francis quickly stopped them and shared a
few moments with the pilgrims.
Among the pilgrims there were some children whom the Pope spent a few minutes with.
China only allows Catholic worship services for the Chinese Patriotic
Catholic Association, which is subordinate to the Chinese Communist
Party, and rejects the authority of the Vatican to appoint bishops or to
The Catholic Church faithful to the Pope is not completely clandestine, although it faces constant opposition.
Diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican were broken in
1951, two years after the communists came to power and expelled foreign
For some years the Holy See has been working on an accord for the
reestablishment of diplomatic relations with China, a rapprochement
encouraged by Pope Francis.
In August 2014, while he was on his way to South Korea, the Holy
Father sent a telegram to the President of China to express his best
wishes when his plane was over Chinese airspace.
The fact that the Pope had received permission to fly over Chinese
airspace was considered a small step forward.
Pope John Paul II had to
avoid the airspace of this country during his trips to Asia.