The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) yesterday announced that the newly appointed Charge d'Affaires of the Holy See to Taiwan, Paul Fitzgerald Russell, will assume the post at the end of next month — a statement made in response to speculation that there had been a change in bilateral relations between Taiwan and the Vatican.
“Regarding media reports that the Vatican has not assigned a new representative to replace the outgoing charge d’affaires, we must clarify that the ministry was notified by the Vatican long ago about the appointment of its new charge d’affaires,” Anne Hung (洪慧珠), director-general of the ministry’s Department of European Affairs, said at a regular press briefing.
The new papal nuncio will replace Monsignor Ambrose Madtha.
According to a Deutsche Welle report that cited the Catholic News Agency (KNA), the Vatican’s reassignment of Madtha to the Ivory Coast without announcing his successor indicated that the Holy See was seeking warmer ties with China.
“The Vatican said that it was sorry to cause such doubt and agreed that we could announce the new charge d’affaires to Taiwan before the Holy See does,” Hung said.
Madtha will accompany Archbishop Edward Joseph Adam, the Vatican representative to the Philippines, to Tuesday’s presidential inauguration ceremony.
Delegates from 14 European countries are also expected at the event, Hung said, touting the strength of Taiwan’s relationship with EU states.
Despite a lack official ties between Taiwan and the EU, the two enjoy strong informal relations, evident in the more than 40 congratulatory messages from various Europeans nations to president-elect Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on his victory, she said.
Hung said European well wishers will include a delegatation from the UK led by Sir Nicholas Winterton, joint chairman of the parliamentary British-Taiwan Group.
The EU, however, has not so far taken an official stance on Taiwan’s WHO bid this year, Hung said.
In the past, the EU has not supported Taiwan’s attempts to gain full membership or observer status at the annual World Health Assembly but threw its weight behind increasing Taiwan’s “meaningful participation” in the health body.