China on Thursday congratulated the new Pope but set conditions for normalisation of ties with the Vatican, saying the Holy See should severe ties with Taiwan and stop interfering in its internal affairs in the name of religion.
"We congratulate the bishop of Argentina on becoming the new Pope," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Hu Chunying told the media.
"We hope the Roman church under the leadership of the new Pope can work with China in tandem, make joint effort and create favourable conditions for improving ties between the two sides," she said.
The Vatican should cut ties with Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory and refrain from interfering in China's internal affairs, she added.
Chinese officials have been saying that Vatican should show flexibility and sincerity in creating conditions for the improvement of China-Vatican ties under the new pope.
Christianity is regarded as the fast growing religion next to Buddhism in Communist China.
According to official figures, China has over 25 million Christians who practice their religion under tightly controlled regime governed by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
The Chinese government and the Vatican have periodically exchanged hostile statements over China’s assertions to have a say in the appointment of Church officials.
Earlier this month, the Communist Party said it will adhere to the policy of respecting religious freedom but prevent "infiltration by overseas-based hostile forces" to make use of religion to subvert its rule.
Yu Zhengsheng, a Standing Committee member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party Central Committee, said the Party will adhere to its basic policy of respecting religious freedom.
"Only by implementing the policy can China withstand the infiltration of overseas-based hostile forces that make use of religion" he said during a meeting with leaders of major national religious groups in Beijing [ Images ].