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Vatican's top envoy to Taiwan leaving amid reshuffle

2016/04/07 20:10:46

Taipei, April 7 (CNA) President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on Thursday hailed the close diplomatic ties between Taiwan and the Holy See over the past 74 years, during a meeting with Monsignor Paul Russell, current head of the Vatican nunciature in Taiwan, who has been named archbishop and nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Noting that Russell's tenure in Taiwan that began in June 2008 largely overlapped with the president's, Ma jokingly said that he hopes Russell's new appointment was unrelated to the ending of his second and final term as president.

Ma said Taiwan's relations with the Holy See have achieved unprecedented advancements during the past eight years when Russell was in office.

This was evident by the fact that he was the first Republic of China (ROC) president invited to attend a papal inauguration ceremony, Ma said. The president traveled to the Vatican for the inaugural mass of Pope Francis in 2013. The invitation reflects the close relations between Taiwan and the Holy See, according to Ma.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) conferred the Order of Brilliant Star with Grand Cordon upon Russell during a farewell dinner later Thursday in recognition of his efforts over the past years to promote cooperation and exchanges and enhance friendship between Taiwan and the Holy See.

After eight years as the charge d'affaires at the Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See to the Republic of China (Taiwan), Russell is returning to Rome as an archbishop-designate and will assume his new post as Apostolic Nuncio to Turkey and Turkmenistan.

Russel said at a recent farewell party in his honor that he regretted his failure to accomplish three things during his stint in Taiwan.

First, Russel said he did not fulfill his mission to advance human rights in Taiwan by abolishing the death penalty.

Second, he was not able to help reduce the crime rate in Taiwan.

Third, he failed to push for a rule that would have given migrant workers the right to one day of paid leave for every one week they work to attend religious activities, Russel added.

Msgr. Sladan Cosic, who arrived in Taiwan in October, will replace Archbishop-designate Russell, whose episcopal consecration is scheduled for June 3, to head the nunciature in Taiwan.

(By Tang Pei-chun and Evelyn Kao)