Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 3 News List

First lady visits pope at summer home

DIPLOMACY Wu Shu-chen delivered a letter from President Chen Shui-bian that asked Pope John Paul II to pray for peace for both sides of the Taiwan Strait

By Lin Chieh-yu  /  STAFF REPORTER IN ROME

First lady Wu Shu-chen (吳淑珍) attended Pope John Paul II's Sunday Rosary at Castel Gandolfo, the pontiff's summer residence, and delivered a letter from President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) that included an offer to help with post-war relief for Iraq.

In the letter, Chen also asked the pope to pray for peace for the people on the two sides of the Taiwan Strait, saying that Taiwan had experienced the fear of suffering long-term military threats.

The pope moved to his summer residence last week and yesterday held his first mass of the year there.

After the mass, Presidential Office spokesman James Huang (黃志芳) pushed Wu in her wheelchair to approach the pope on the podium. She shook hands and chatted with him.

"The first lady congratulated the pope on the 25th anniversary of his assumption of papacy and also expressed good wishes for the pope's health," Huang said.

"The pope thanked the first lady for her sincerity in making the long journey [to see him], and asked her to send his greetings to President Chen and the Taiwanese people."

The letter, delivered by Wu as the president's special representative, was also based on the theme of peace. It said that Taiwan would follow the pope's teachings about peace.

Huang said that Chen mentioned in the letter that the first lady was acting as a special representative for him and the Taiwanese people.

The president said that the first lady's health was not suitable for long-distance travel, but because of her persistence in helping with Taiwan's diplomacy, she never considered the hardship she had to endure.

"The president also mentioned that Taiwan was still under military threat from China, and he hoped that the both China and Taiwan could follow faithfully the pope's peaceful doctrines of truth, justice, love and freedom," Huang said.

"President Chen also expressed Taiwan's willingness to work with the international community to build peace in the Middle East. He hoped that Taiwan could contribute to the post-war relief plan for Iraq, and said he was donating US$100,000 to the Vatican foundation for that cause."

Wu stressed that the pope was not in good health, but perhaps out of the concern for disadvantaged groups, he was not willing to let her, a woman in a wheelchair who traveled long way, to return with nothing accomplished.

So the pope took time out of his busy schedule to talk with her and her delegation, Wu said.

When Wu met the pope, many people were waving the ROC and Vatican national flags outside.

Wu had the chance to introduce all the members of her delegation to the pope, and the pope shook hands with the ambassador and officials in the delegation.

After a four-day trip to Berlin, Wu arrived at the Camillians armed forces airport in Rome on a private flight on Saturday afternoon.

Since Taiwan has official diplomatic ties with the Holy See, Wu was greeted with formal ceremonies, including a reception from the commander of the armed forces base and a military escort for the first lady's vehicle.

Yesterday morning she received the secretary-general of the Order of Camillians Fr. Luigi Galvan. She thanked the order for their efforts in setting up hospitals in eastern Taiwan and outlying islands since 1952.

When Chen celebrated his second year in office on May 20 last year, he volunteered at the Camillians-founded St. Mary's Hospital (羅東聖母醫院) in Ilan for a day.

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