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Holy See celebrates links with Taipei


TAIPEI (UCAN): Taiwan and the Holy See celebrated 70 years of diplomatic relations on October 20 in a low-key ceremony held in Taipei, specifically designed not to antagonise the authorities in mainland China.

In an address given at the Immaculate Conception Cathedral in the city, the Taipei-based papal representative, Monsignor Paul Russell, told the 30 or so priests among the 300 people who joined the two senior government officials present that relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Vatican had often been difficult.

These challenges were “not inherent in the fundamental nature of either the Republic of China or of the Holy See, but rather are derived from external forces,” he said in a thinly veiled reference to mainland China.

The Holy See is the only entity in Europe to maintain diplomatic ties with Taipei, a relationship disliked by the Communist Party in Beijing.

China has tried to isolate Taiwan on the international stage as it attempts to bring the island back under direct control following the 1949 separation when Mao Zedong’s forces took power. Seven years earlier, the Vatican had established formal ties with the Republic of China, as the mainland and Taiwan, then referred to as Formosa, was collectively known at the time.

Relations with the Holy See continued when the republic’s government fled to Taiwan when the Communist Party took power on the mainland. Meanwhile, China banished all forms of religion until the late 1970s.

Vanessa Shih, Taiwan’s vice-minister of foreign affairs, said that amid the global political and economic turmoil over the past 70 years, “The relationship between the Republic of China and the Holy See has remained firm, based on our shared commitment to world peace and the wellbeing of humankind.”

She added that the Vatican has made a significant contribution to education, medical care and social welfare in Taiwan.

Lin Tzuling, vice-minister of the interior, was the only other senior government official at the two-hour Mass led by Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan, president of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference.


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