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Pope's overture to China would pay dividends for religious freedom

Benefits of building relations expected to outweigh risks

Pope Francis attends mass in Nagasaki on Nov. 24. The pontiff did not extend his Asian trip to China, but a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping could yet happen. (Photo by Shinya Sawai)

TOKYO -- Pope Francis left Japan on Nov. 26 after praying for peace and the abolition of nuclear weapons.

When a plan for the papal visit to Japan was mooted last autumn, rumors quietly emerged that the pontiff might visit China as well. If the speculation had come true, it would have been a historic occasion, as the Vatican and China are at odds and have no diplomatic relations.

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