Taipei, March 12 (CNA) Taiwan's foreign ministry said Tuesday that Pope Francis will not meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), citing information released by the Vatican, amid media reports that a meeting could take place during Xi's upcoming trip to Italy.
Citing the Vatican schedule, Italian media said Pope Francis does not have any official events scheduled from March 21-23. This has led to speculation that Xi could meet with the Pope during his upcoming visit to Italy from March 21-24.
However, Vatican foreign minister Paul Gallagher has rejected such suggestions, saying that a meeting with Xi is not currently on the Pope's schedule.
Asked to comment, foreign minister spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said the Holy See has already denied any such arrangement, but added that the ministry will closely follow Xi's trip to Italy and remain in close contact with the Vatican.
The Vatican and Beijing signed a provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops in September 2018.
Some believe that with the pact bringing the two sides closer on a key issue, the Vatican could soon abandon its official diplomatic ties with Taipei and recognize Beijing.
Lee reiterated the Holy See's previous clarifications Tuesday that such a deal is "not of a political or diplomatic nature" and will not affect its ties with Taipei.
Taiwan hopes the provisional agreement leads to greater religious freedom in China, the spokesman added.