If an agreement is reached between the Vatican and China, it would focus on religious affairs only and would not affect the Holy See’s ties with Taiwan, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) Kelly Hsieh (謝武樵) said yesterday.
Catholic and Chinese state media have reported that the Vatican and Beijing could seal a deal before the end of this month to end a decades-long dispute over the appointment of bishops in China, with some speculating that this could lead to the Vatican abandoning Taipei to form diplomatic ties with Beijing.
High-ranking Vatican officials have repeatedly told Taiwan that the agreement, once signed, would aim to handle Catholic religious affairs in China only and would not touch on political or diplomatic issues, Hsieh said, adding that talks on the subject between the Vatican and Beijing began as early as the 1990s.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
Only since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in March 2013 and began making goodwill gestures to China have breakthroughs been achieved, he said.
Even if the issue of bishop appointments is resolved, there are hundreds of other issues in China concerning religious freedom that need to be addressed by both sides, Hsieh said.
However, even with the Vatican’s reassurances, the ministry is closely monitoring talks between Beijing and the Holy See, as any deal would mark a new beginning for the two sides, Hsieh said.
Of its 17 diplomatic allies, the Holy See is Taiwan’s only one in Europe. Taiwan has lost five allies since President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) took office in May 2016.
Catholics in China are divided into those belonging to so-called “underground churches,” which recognize the pope and the Holy See, and those belonging to the state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association, the bishops of which are appointed by the Chinese government in collaboration with local parishes.
Under the anticipated deal, the Vatican would have a say in the appointment of future bishops, foreign media reports have said, bringing the two sides closer on a key issue that has divided them.
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