“We are taking measures,” Francis responded. “Each case (of the nomination of a bishop) is looked at with a magnifying glass.” The pontiff added that “this is the main thing, the dialogue is not broken.”
As for the Chinese authorities, “sometimes they’re a little bit closed, sometimes they’re not,” Francis said.
The pope evaded a question about how the Vatican’s relationship with Taiwan affects the dialogue. The Holy See is one of the few states that maintains formal ties with Taiwan rather than China.
Francis has come under fire from more conservative factions of the Catholic Church over a 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in China, given that the country’s communist authorities have sometimes jailed priests. Among his harshest critics is Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong.
In the interview, Francis called Zen, who is 91, a “charming old man” and a “tender soul.” He recounted how, when the cardinal came to Rome this month for the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI, the pontiff invited him to the Vatican hotel where Francis lives. In front of the Pope’s private study there is a statue representing Our Lady of Sheshan. Francis said that when the cardinal saw him, he “he began to cry, like a child.”
Zen was arrested last year after clashing with Hong Kong authorities over his involvement in a now-silenced democracy movement.
Pope Francis has stepped up his criticism of discrimination against members of the LGBTQ community. In an interview Tuesday with The Associated Press, Francis criticized nations where homosexuality is a crime, but reiterated the Catholic Church’s teaching that homosexual activity is sinful.
“Being homosexual is not a crime. It’s not a crime. Yes, it is a sin. Well, yes, but first let’s make the distinction between sin and crime.”
ON THE HEALTH AND RETIREMENT OF THE POPE:
The 86-year-old pontiff was asked to assess his health.
“I’m healthy. For my age, I’m normal. I could die tomorrow, but I’m under control. I always ask for the grace that the Lord gives me a sense of humor”.
Following the death of Pope Benedict XVI, his predecessor, who in 2013 became the first pontiff in 600 years to resign, Francis was also asked about the need for rules for any future retirement.
“After a little more experience…then it could be regularized or further regulated,” he said. “But at the moment it hasn’t occurred to me.”