Fri, Feb 02, 2018 - Page 1 News List

DPP lawmakers hope to meet pope

Staff writer, with agencies

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Tsai Shih-ying speaks in Taipei on Dec. 6 last year.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

Five Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmakers are seeking an audience with Pope Francis as concerns grow over Taipei’s diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

The Holy See is one of only 20 countries that recognize Taipei instead of Beijing, but Francis has sought to improve ties with China since he took office in 2013.

The five lawmakers, who are members of the Legislative Yuan’s Foreign and National Defense Committee and Internal Administration Committee, are scheduled to leave tomorrow for an eight-day trip to Italy and Greece.

DPP Legislator Tsai Shih-ying (蔡適應) said he and his colleagues “hope to have an audience with the pope,” but such a meeting has yet to be confirmed.

“We will express our stance and communicate on issues ... relating to Taiwan-Vatican ties,” he said.

Tsai’s office said the other lawmakers are Wu Kun-yuh (吳焜裕), Chuang Jui-hsiung (莊瑞雄), Chang Hung-lu (張宏陸) and Chou Chun-mi (周春米).

The announcement of their trip comes after the Vatican chastised retired Hong Kong cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君), who accused it of “selling out” to Beijing after it promoted bishops loyal to China’s state-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association instead of the pontiff.

Zen confirmed an AsiaNews missionary news agency report that a Vatican diplomat had asked two Chinese bishops recognized by the Vatican to resign in favor of state-sanctioned prelates.

The Vatican has not maintained diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1951, two years after the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

Although they have improved relations over the past few years as China’s Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain bishops.

Previous attempts to restore ties have floundered over Beijing’s insistence that the Vatican must give up its recognition of Taiwan and promise not to interfere in religious issues in China.

In related news, Department of European Affairs Director-General Anna Kao (高安) yesterday said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is aware of the dialogue between the Vatican and Beijing, and would continue to closely monitor developments.

Kao would not comment when asked if the two sides have made a breakthrough, saying only that even if there was a breakthrough on the appointments issue, huge differences remain concerning religious freedom.

Taiwan has democracy and freedom, with a vibrant Catholic community, she added.

Taiwan maintains close exchanges and communications with its only diplomatic ally in Europe and bilateral ties remain strong and stable, she said.

Cordial relations have been exemplified by frequent two-way visits by high-ranking officials over the years, while Taiwan and the Holy See also work closely together on cultural exchanges and humanitarian assistance projects, she said.

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