Vatican envoy says ties with Holy See are firm

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Thu, May 26, 2005 - Page 3

Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican Tou Chou-seng (杜筑生) assured legislators yesterday that before the Vatican and China resolve their religious differences, Taiwan's diplomatic ties with the Holy See will remain solid.

Amid speculation that the Holy See, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe, is preparing to switch official relations from Taipei to Beijing, Tou presented a report on Taiwan-Vatican ties to the legislature.

Gap in views

The ambassador said the Holy See's relationship with China was unlikely to undergo major changes in the near future because their views on religious matters are still very different.

Tou used the image of a "green light" signal to describe the current state of Taiwan-Vatican ties, meaning the relationship was stable and safe.

"I am telling the truth. I am not creating a scene to deceive our people," Tou told Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lai Shyh-bao (賴士葆).

The Vatican will make an "appropriate arrangement" for Taiwan if it decides to establish diplomatic relations with China, according to Tou.

Taiwan will have little choice but to accept the Vatican's decision if either it or China makes a large conciliatory move and resolves religious disputes to build diplomatic ties.

Papal priorities

If the Vatican severs official relations with the nation, "we will fight for the best possible treatment for Taiwan," Tou said.

"Evangelism in China has been a major policy of recent pontiffs. To Pope Benedict, a relationship with Beijing is one of the priority issues concerning him," Tou said in his report.

In a meeting with ambassadors from the Vatican's diplomatic allies on May 12, the Pope said that he hoped that countries with large Catholic populations that don't have official relations with the Holy See would be able to send ambassadors or representatives to the Vatican as soon as possible.

Tou said the Pope was likely referring to China, Vietnam and Saudi Arabia.

"There are many Catholics in China and Vietnam," Tou said.