Vatican City, March 19 (CNA) Republic of China President Ma Ying-jeou said Tuesday Pope Francis had shown himself to be a man of great passion and great warmth and he was pleased that the Catholic Church was having such a new leader.
Ma and first lady Chow Mei-ching met the pope after attending the latter's inaugural Mass. Ma said he talked with the pope for about one minute.
Ma said he greeted the pope in Spanish, introducing himself as president of the Republic of China. He also introduced his wife to the pope.
He then requested permit to speak in English, to which Pope Francis consented without hesitation.
During their brief conversation, Ma said he specifically mentioned the late Argentine priest Ricardo Ferreira, who had devoted 50 years of his life to serving Taiwan's people until he died of cancer in June 2006 at the age of 80.
The brief audience with Pope Francis marked the first meeting between an ROC president and a pope.
Earlier, when the president and his wife attended the inaugural Mass, he engaged with political leaders from other countries, including Chilean President Sebastian Pinera and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla, both of whom were seated nearby.
Ma and the first lady also greeted other leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
The first couple can be seen exchanging pleasantries with Biden, who led the U.S. delegation to the happy occasion.
Accompanied by Jason Yuan, secretary general of the National Security Council and former representative to the United States, the first couple chatted briefly with Biden, with the U.S. vice president having an arm around Mrs. Ma's waist at one point and the other hand on the president's arm.
The ROC has maintained diplomatic ties with the Vatican for 71 years. The two sides share universal values such as freedom, democracy and peace and have collaborated in extensive humanitarian relief efforts, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.
(By Kelven Huang, S.C. Chang and Jay Chen)