Holy See values relations with Taiwan: Vice President Chen

Vice president visiting the Vatican for canonization ceremony

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Vice President Chen Chien-jen (center) and his wife pose with officials at Taiwan's embassy in Vatican City

Vice President Chen Chien-jen (center) and his wife pose with officials at Taiwan's embassy in Vatican City (By Central News Agency)

The Holy See attaches importance to its relations with Taiwan and the recent agreement reached between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops merely shows Pope Francis' efforts to improve religious freedom in China, Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) said.

The vice president made the remarks at Taiwan's Embassy to the Holy See on Friday after arriving as the special envoy of President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) for the canonization of late British Cardinal John Henry Newman and four others on Oct. 13 in Vatican City.

Chen said the Holy See, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe, attaches great importance to its relations with Taiwan, as evident in the designation of Arnaldo Catalan, who shares a close bond with Pope Francis, as the new head of the apostolic nunciature to Taiwan in August.

Addressing concerns that the provisional Vatican-China agreement inked last September would lead to the Holy See switching diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing, Chen said the agreement is aimed at integrating the Chinese Catholic Church into the global Catholic community, rather than dealing with any political or diplomatic issues.

"I firmly believe that the provisional agreement between the Vatican and China on the appointment of bishops will help harmonize the Universal Church and the Catholic Church in China," he said.

As it turned out, the agreement has made progress on improving religious freedom in China, the vice president said.

He pointed out that as an indication of how the agreement works, China ordained two bishops in August and the appointment was approved by the pontiff, affirming the pope's leadership over the Catholic Church in China.

Chen, a Catholic himself, said the pope managed to include the Catholic Church in China just as the good shepherd did when he left 99 sheep to go after the one lost sheep until he found it, referring to the parable of the lost sheep in the Bible.

"We pray that this represents a first step toward religious freedom in China," the vice president said.

On Oct. 13, Pope Francis will canonize Cardinal Newman, a 19th Century British theologian; Indian Sister Mariam Thresia, founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family; Italian Sister Giuseppina Vannini; Brazilian Sister Dulce Lopes Pontes; and Margarita Bays, a Swiss consecrated virgin of the Third Order of St. Francis.

Chen's current visit to the Holy See is his third since taking office as vice president in May 2016. He attended the canonization of Mother Teresa in September 2016 and Pope Paul VI in October 2018.