Taiwan is maintaining close contact with the Holy See, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Thursday, amid rumors of a potential meeting between Pope Francis and Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) in Kazakhstan.
The pope and Xi are expected to be in Nur-Sultan on Wednesday next week, triggering speculation that the two might hold talks that could pave the way for the establishment of formal ties between the Vatican and Beijing.
Asked about the rumors, ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou (歐江安) said that Taiwan “maintains a smooth communication channel with the Vatican.”
Photo courtesy of the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See via CNA
It has maintained close cooperation with the Holy See since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1942, she told a regular news conference.
The pope is to visit Kazakhstan from Tuesday to Thursday next week for an interfaith summit, while Xi is expected to visit the central Asian nation on Wednesday.
Neither the Vatican nor Beijing has confirmed a meeting.
The Vatican is one of 14 sovereign entities that maintain full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, but its relations with Beijing have warmed under the leadership of Pope Francis.
In 2018, Beijing and the Vatican struck a deal to work together on appointing Chinese bishops, which is expected to be extended for a second time next month.
However, Ou said that Taiwan’s relationship with the Vatican remains strong and stable, adding that former vice president Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) met with Pope Francis on Sunday at a Mass in St Peter’s Square.
Chen served as President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) special envoy to the beatification of former pope John Paul I on Sunday last week.
On Wednesday, the former vice president attended a council meeting of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences of Vatican City to share Taiwan’s scientific expertise with the world’s top scientists, the Embassy of the Republic of China to the Holy See said.
A specialist in the field of epidemiology, public health and human genetics, Chen was last year appointed by Pope Francis as an ordinary academician of the Political Academy of Sciences, making him the second Taiwanese to receive the honor after Nobel Prize winner Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲).
Chen was further selected to be a councilor of the academy for a four-year term, making him the first Taiwanese to sit on the council, the embassy said.
According to the academy’s Web site, the council meets at least twice a year at the institution’s headquarters in Rome.
Chen was also scheduled to participate in the plenary session of the academy, which is being held from Thursday to today, with a focus on basic science for human development, peace and planetary health, the academy’s Web site shows.
The most important mission of the academy is to advance the frontiers of human knowledge, push forward the limits of science, and stimulate an interdisciplinary approach, so as to ensure that scientific works would benefit humanity, Chen was quoted by the embassy as saying.
Chen is to fly back to Taiwan tomorrow.
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