Pope Francis wants an official invite to the Koreas and Korean President Moon seems keen to send him one. One can imagine the Holy Father’s willingness to wade into the peninsular negotiations and act as a grand peacemaker. It would – in the Vatican’s mind at least – lessen the troubling conclusions that one is forced to arrive at concerning Francis’ involvement in promoting and protecting bishops that clearly covered up crimes of sexual abuse amongst the clergy. And it would perhaps be seen as a way to burnish the Pope’s foreign legacy. Like John Paul II.


Let’s start with Pope Francis recent, and apparently secret, agreement with the Chinese Communist Party regarding China’s much-persecuted Catholic Church. What Francis has done is hand over control to the communist bureaucracy while claiming to have final say on the nominations of Catholic bishops in the country. The Pope gave the thumbs up to all 7 bishops proposed by the Communist Party and in fact also agreed to the retirement or demotion of bishops that were authorized by the so-called underground church in China. That is, the real church. Francis wrote a murky and confusing letter explaining his actions and included this example of shining rhetorical strength:

When, in the past, it was presumed to determine the internal life of the Catholic communities, imposing direct control above and beyond the legitimate competence of the state, the phenomenon of clandestinity arose in the Church in China.

Clandestine. Unsanctioned. Therefore illegitimate. Francis has thrown the faithful of his church in China into the jaws of Beijing’s bureaucracy. God help them, because the Pope isn’t about to.

So, this is good isn’t it if you’re President Moon and are desperate to sign a deal with Kim and to do so you need to placate both Kim and his Chinese sponsors. Who better than Francis to place a withered hand of blessing on the birth of a new unified peninsula?

But why stop there? Seeing that the Catholic Church may be heading towards another split due to the Pope and the Church hierarchy’s shameful handing of the sex abuse scandals, why not consider an earlier schism, one previous to Luther’s thesis nailed to the cathedral door? Let’s go back 964 years to 1054 and the birth of the Eastern Orthodox Church? It’s a nice historical model if you’re Pope Francis because the Eastern Orthodox Church in Soviet times was a supine appendage of the Communist apparatus.

But Beijing is worth a mass, with bishops sanctioned by the authorities, and the billion-odd souls a new and exciting opportunity for Francis. He could even move East like Marco Polo. He won’t of course. The Vatican’s luxuries, and the power which flows from them, are too compelling. But perhaps he could be thought of as the Eastern Pope.

Or as Beijing’s Man in the Vatican. With a copy of Mao’s Little Red Book, and a biography of Saint Ernesto Guevara de La Serna, alongside his mitre and rosary.