Francis in China
There is an interesting article at Quartz looking at the PR problem Pope Francis could face if he tries to mend relations with Beijing.
For those of you not up to date on Sino-Vatican relations, China hasn't held official talks with the Holy See since the 1950s. The communist country actually allows a state-sponsored version of the church to exist, but it has clashed repeatedly with the Vatican. Several of its bishops were even excommunicated after they were appointed without the Vatican's approval.
There have been signs, however, that relations have been thawing — the most notable example being when Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jiping exchanged correspondence — and speculation has been growing that the pope might make a visit. (And no, it's not because Pope Francis has a natural affinity to a communist country.) At Quartz, Heather Timmons shows just what a minefield such a visit could turn out to be:
There are an estimated 12 million Catholics in China, but they are divided between the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a group created by Communist Party in 1957 that does not recognize the Vatican as its head, and an underground, technically illegal, Catholic church that recognizes the Pope (and still has millions of members).
Visiting China in an official capacity would almost certainly require a meeting with the former, but Pope Francis would be unlikely to want to come without a promised meeting with the underground group as well, which would embarrass Beijing. [Quartz]