China Welcomes Papal Envoy for Ukraine Peace Talks

Beijing hosts Papal envoy Cardinal Matteo Zuppi in a rare diplomatic move to discuss the Ukraine crisis.

In a remarkable development, the Chinese foreign ministry announced on Wednesday that Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, a Papal envoy, will visit China for discussions aimed at resolving the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This diplomatic move comes despite the absence of formal bilateral relations between Beijing and the Holy See.

High-Level Meeting Planned
China’s Special Envoy for Eurasian Affairs, Li Hui, is scheduled to meet with Cardinal Zuppi during his visit to Beijing, as confirmed by Mao Ning, a spokesperson at the foreign ministry during a regular news conference.

China’s Commitment to Peace
Mao emphasized China’s commitment to promoting peace talks regarding the Ukraine crisis. She stated, “China has always been dedicated to advancing peace negotiations on the Ukraine problem. We are prepared to collaborate with all parties and keep advocating a de-escalation and cooling of the situation.”

Since the outbreak of the Ukraine war in February 2022, China has notably refrained from condemning its ally, Russia. However, China has consistently called for a ceasefire and a political resolution to the crisis.

Significance of the Papal Envoy’s Visit
The decision to host a senior Papal envoy is considered significant, given the cool relations between Beijing and the Vatican. Notably, the Vatican maintains bilateral relations with democratically governed Taiwan but not with China. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, and the Vatican remains the only European state recognizing Taipei.

The tension between China and the Vatican has also been aggravated by disputes over the appointment of bishops in China.

Details of the Visit
Cardinal Zuppi is expected to meet with “top institutional leaders” in Beijing, including Chinese Premier Li Qiang, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, despite the Chinese foreign ministry not providing detailed information about his schedule or the people he would meet.

Cardinal Zuppi is expected to be in China from Wednesday to Friday as part of a diplomatic effort by the Holy See to facilitate peace negotiations in Ukraine. He had previously visited Kyiv and Moscow in June and later Washington in July, all part of the Holy See’s endeavor to bring Ukraine and Russia to the negotiating table.

Historical Context
It’s worth noting that the highest-level official encounter between China and the Vatican occurred in 2020 when Archbishop Paul Gallagher met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of a security conference in Munich.

This latest development showcases the Vatican’s continued diplomatic efforts to mediate in the Ukraine conflict, despite complex international relations.

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