Taiwan pays tribute to outgoing Pope Benedict

Taipei, Feb. 12 (CNA) Taiwan expressed gratitude to Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday for his efforts to strengthen ties between Taiwan and the Vatican and paid tribute to his work as head of the Roman Catholic Church, a day after the pope announced his decision to step down soon. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying that despite a great sense of regret and surprise, it fully respected the pope's decision to resign with effect from Feb. 28 for health reasons. Pope Benedict is recognized worldwide for his commitment to world peace, the betterment of people's well-being and the development of the Catholic Church since he became its head on April 24, 2005, the ministry said. The ministry also thanked the pope for his efforts to build closer ties between Taiwan and the Holy See. In August 2009, the pope donated US$50,000 to the reconstruction efforts in the wake of Typhoon Morakot and publicly prayed for those affected by the storm, which caused massive landslides in central and southern Taiwan and the worst flooding in the country in 50 years, according to the ministry. (By Lin Shen-hsu and Scully Hsiao)