Relations between Taiwan and the Vatican will not be affected by a recent letter by Pope Benedict XVI to China urging it to respect religious freedom, a foreign ministry official said yesterday.
"We think the letter is apolitical," Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh (葉非比) said. "We also understand the pope's views on the problems the Holy See encounters when doing missionary work in China."
Yeh was referring to a letter, published on Saturday, in which the Pope addressed the nearly 12 million Catholics in China.
The pontiff called on Beijing to respect their "authentic religious freedom" and warned that China's official church was "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."
The Vatican released the 55-page letter on its Web site. The letter was translated into five languages -- including Mandarin, in both traditional and simplified characters.
China did not immediately respond to the letter, but its Foreign Ministry called on the Vatican to sever ties with Taiwan and not interfere in Beijing's internal affairs in the name of religion.
The Vatican said it was prepared "at any time" to move its diplomatic representation from Taipei to Beijing -- as soon as an agreement with the Chinese government is reached.
This was not the first time the Holy See had proposed to move the embassy, Yeh said.
"However, the Vatican's offer comes with requirements, a long-existing bone of contention between Beijing and the Vatican," she said.
Beijing and the Vatican have repeatedly clashed over the appointments of bishops ever since China severed ties with the Holy See in 1951, setting up its own Catholic church administered by the government.
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