Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Wu Chih-chung (吳志中) yesterday said that Taiwan’s diplomatic ties with the Vatican are not a “zero-sum game,” welcoming dialogue between the Catholic city-state and China for the sake of promoting religious freedom.
“Taipei and the Holy See are diplomatic allies connected by the same values, sharing a consensus on many aspects, including religious freedom, democracy, human rights and humanitarian aid,” Wu said on the sidelines of the final day of a two-day forum titled “Direct Election of President and Taiwan’s Democratic Development in the Past 20 Years” in Taipei.
Wu said that, due to its mission to promote human rights and religious freedom, the Vatican is supposed to engage in dialogue with China, something that Taiwan is not only not opposed to, but also thinks is positive.
“This is not a zero-sum game. It does not mean that we have to sever ties [with a diplomatic ally] just because it starts getting close to others,” Wu said, urging the public to not interpret the matter as being purely black-and-white.
Asked about the status of Taiwan-Vatican relations, Wu said the ties have been and are expected to remain relatively stable, but acknowledged that might not last forever, as “many things are changing.”
Wu made the remarks one day after Vatican Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin said in a speech in Pordenone, Italy, that there are many hopes and expectations for new developments and a new season in relations between China and the Vatican.
“[This] will benefit not just Catholics in the land of Confucius, but the whole country, which boasts one of the greatest civilizations on the planet,” Reuters quoted Parolin as saying.
Speculation over the possibility of the Holy See switching recognition from Taipei to Beijing has been growing, particularly after President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) inauguration on May 20.
Despite uncertainty surrounding Taiwan-Vatican relations, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), who is Catholic, is on Friday scheduled to embark on a six-day visit to the Holy See, the nation’s only European diplomatic ally, to attend the canonization of Mother Teresa.
Wu, who is to be a member of Chen’s delegation, said the Vatican is not a country that puts national interests above all else and aims to push for religious freedom and the promotion of the Catholic faith.
“As far as the government is concerned, our priority is to maintain official diplomatic ties with the Vatican,” Wu said, adding that no changes would be made to Chen’s visit.
Earlier yesterday, the ministry also issued a statement saying that it has kept close tabs on interactions between China and the Vatican, and it reiterated that Taipei’s ties with the Holy See have a long history.
“For many years, high-level government officials from both sides have made frequent visits to each other’s nations. Intensive cooperation has also occurred between Taiwan and the city-state’s pontifical councils and Catholic charitable organizations,” the ministry said.
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