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Taiwan monitoring reported China-Vatican bishop appointment deal

2018/02/19 17:58:24

MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章)/CNA file photo

Taipei, Feb. 19 (CNA) Taiwan is closely monitoring a reported breakthrough on the bishop appointment issue between China and the Holy See, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Monday, amid reports that a deal to solve the problem will be signed soon.

MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said in response to a report in Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Sunday that the ministry continues to follow dialogue and exchanges between Beijing and the Vatican.

The newspaper reported that Pope Francis has approved an accord with Beijing on the appointment of bishops in China, and it will be signed sometime after March.

The Italian-language newspaper also quoted an anonymous senior official from the Holy See as saying that while the issue of forming official diplomatic ties was not touched on in previous bilateral talks, it would only be a matter of time.

The Republic of China (Taiwan) Embassy in the Vatican may be forced to move away from its current location in Vatican City, or the Holy See could ask Taiwan to form a new "cultural institute" to replace its existing embassy as a goodwill gesture to Beijing, the report said.

Asked to comment, Lee said the ongoing talks between Beijing and the Vatican focus on religious issues instead of political ones.

He stressed that Taiwan maintains close exchanges and communications with its only European diplomatic ally and that bilateral ties remain strong and stable.

The cordial relations are exemplified by frequent two-way visits by high-ranking officials over the years. A bilateral cooperation project also shows Taiwan is a leader in promoting religious freedom in the region, he said.

Taiwan will continue to work closer with the Holy See to become an "irreplaceable partner" of the Vatican in humanitarian assistance projects, he said.

The latest news adds to a growing list of developments that taken together indicate the Vatican and Beijing are closer than ever, with the former making many goodwill gestures to China, especially since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in March 2013.

Catholics in China are currently split between those in so-called "underground churches" that recognize the pope in the Holy See and those belonging to a Chinese state-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association where bishops are appointed by the government in collaboration with local church communities.

Under the anticipated deal, the Vatican will have a say in negotiations for the appointment of future bishops, according to foreign media reports, bringing the two sides closer on a key issue that has divided them.

(By Joseph Yeh)