SEOUL (Reuters) - China may not have received a message Pope Francis sent from his plane on his way to South Korea on Thursday, so it was re-sent through Beijing’s embassy to Italy, the Vatican said on Friday.
Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told a briefing there may have been a technical failure when the radio message was sent by the Pope, addressed to Chinese President Xi Jinping, as the pope’s plane was flying over China.
The Chinese embassy to Italy in Rome asked the Vatican for a copy. China and the Vatican have no diplomatic relations.
The telegram read: “Upon entering Chinese airspace, I extend best wishes to your Excellency and your fellow citizens and I invoke the divine blessing of peace and wellbeing upon the nation.”
It was the first time a pope had been allowed to fly over China on Asian tours. His predecessor John Paul II had to avoid Chinese airspace because of the fraught relations between Beijing and the Vatican.
The Vatican has had no formal ties with China since shortly after the Communist Party took power in 1949. The Catholic Church in China is divided into two communities: an “official” Church known as the “Patriotic Association” answerable to the Party, and an underground Church that swears allegiance only to the pope in Rome.
Reporting By Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey