TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) departed late Thursday for the Holy See on a trip that many see as an effort to maintain formal relations with the Vatican, which reached a historic agreement with China last month on the bishop appointment.
The vice president, speaking at the Taoyuan International Airport shortly before boarding on Thursday (all times local), reaffirmed the close ties shared by Taiwan and the Vatican. He said the Taiwanese government will continue to work with its Vatican counterpart led by Pope Francis for religious freedom, democracy, human rights, and world peace.
Chen also said he would pray for lasting cross-strait peace and religious freedom in China, where the two Catholic Churches have long existed — the ‘underground’ church faithful to the Roman Catholic Church and the ‘official’ church led by bishops appointed by the Chinese government.
The vice president is traveling to the Holy See to attend the canonization of Pope Paul VI and other reverend members of the Church, officials said, but Chen will also take up the mission of solidifying diplomatic ties with the Vatican. The Vatican-China agreement, which grants Beijing the power to appoint future bishops in China, is also perceived to be paving the way for formal diplomatic relations between the two governments, even though the Vatican and Taiwanese officials have dismissed the rumors.
Chen, like other representatives attending the canonization, is expected to meet with Pope Francis, who has in the past expressed wishes to visit China. The Vatican is currently the only government in Europe recognizing Taiwan instead of China.
According to the Presidential Office, the delegation will stay in Vatican City for four days. Apart from the canonization, the Vice President will also meet with overseas Taiwanese nationals in an event held at St. Peter's Basilica.