TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (王毅) and Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Paul Gallagher met on Friday (Feb. 14) in what is believed to be the highest-level official contact between the two countries in decades.
The two top diplomats met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference to discuss a range of issues, from religion to the coronavirus epidemic, according to the Holy See press release. “The two parties held a discussion that took place in a cordial atmosphere,” it said.
The Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops, signed on Sept. 22, 2018, took center stage during the talks. The agreement sparked fierce opposition from conservatives within China, as it marked the first time Beijing had allowed foreign religious forces to have a say in its internal affairs, wrote CNA.
The Holy See has sought to renew the deal in a bid to promote religious freedom and human rights in a country with a flawed human rights record. While the meeting failed to reach that goal, both sides were positive and vowed to continue talks.
The inking of the agreement has been interpreted in some quarters as a step toward re-establishing diplomatic relations between the Vatican and China. The Holy See is the only nation in Europe that recognizes Taiwan, which has just 15 diplomatic allies due to Beijing’s constant poaching.