Tue, Mar 09, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Former envoy seeks to convey message of peace

SERVICE TO THE PEOPLE Retired ambassador Raymond Tai said he was happy to cap off his 36-year career of public service by serving as the envoy to the Vatican

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Former ambassador to the Holy See Raymond Tai, center, is seen receiving the Order of the Brilliant Star from President Chen Shui-bian, left, at the Presidential Office in this file photo from Feb. 19. Tai was awarded the honor in recognition of his service to the country.

PHOTO: CNA

Raymond Tai (戴瑞明), former ambassador to the Holy See, shares a common hope with St. Francis of Assisi -- to be the Lord's channel of peace.

Before retiring from a 36-year career of public service last year, Tai, 70, served in various government positions, including presidential spokesman and representative to the UK.

He spent the last seven years of his diplomatic career in Vatican.

Taiwan's ties with the Holy See, its only diplomatic ally in Europe, have not been smooth. The Vatican recalled its last ambassador to Taiwan in 1980 and never sent one to fill the place, instead sending a succession of papal nuncios.

Therefore, first lady Wu Shu-chen's (吳淑珍) handshake with Pope John Paul II during a public mass in Rome last July was hailed as a significant diplomatic breakthrough for the nation.

Tai, the chief architect of that historical meeting, holds a radically different view from that of the government regarding how the Vatican might handle its ties with China.

The former envoy said he did not oppose the Holy See's dialogues with Beijing because the talks would "promote China's religious freedom."

"Tai's remarks sound bold and abrupt for those who believe Taiwan and China stand as hostile rivals," said Cardinal Paul Shan (單國璽).

Shan, who hosted a prayer service during Fu Jen Catholic University's ceremony last Friday to confer an honorary doctor of law on Tai, called the former ambassador "the messenger of peace."

"You are not afraid to express your thoughts. It is your belief that both sides of the Taiwan Strait shall make peace, for cross-strait peace is the way to bring greatest benefits for Chinese and other people in the world," Shan told Tai in the ceremony.

Pursuing peace was Tai's sincere hope. The former envoy, who once said he hated war, did not express his love for peace only to "hypocritically follow the Holy See's diplomatic principles," Shan said.

When working in the Vatican, the first thing Tai did every day was read the newspapers.

"He was looking for opportunities to help those in need," Shan said.

Tai has given Taiwan's donations to various countries through the Holy See and built good relationships with non-allies such as Algeria, Egypt and Turkey, according to Shan.

Proper explanations of cross-strait relations could reduce non-allies' concerns about making friends with Taiwanese diplomats, Tai said.

"Love and peace are the Pope's greatest expectation for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait," Tai said. "I am so happy the last job in my public-service career was to be the ambassador to the Holy See."

"It was the greatest joy in my life to be able to work for churches in Rome and Taiwan during my term in Vatican. The Holy See's diplomacy is absolutely different from that of other countries in the world," Tai said.

The Vatican has no worldly aims to pursue. As the pope is the leader of the world's Catholics, what he cares about is Catholic churches and their congregations around the world, Tai said.

The purpose of the Vatican's building diplomatic ties with other countries is to protect and promote local churches' benefits and seek peace in the international community through dialogues, he said.

Tai said he could not agree with a Taiwanese proverb that says: "Only fighters can be the winners" (要拼才會贏).

Taiwan is too small a country, so "With whom can we fight? We will never win," he said.

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