Taiwan urges Vatican to focus on religious freedom in China

10/22/2020 10:55 PM
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St. Peter
St. Peter's Basilica in the Vatican (image taken from Pixabay)

Taipei, Oct. 22 (CNA) Taiwan on Thursday reminded the Vatican of the importance of religious freedom after it extended a provisional agreement on bishop appointments with China for another two years.

The Vatican, Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe, announced earlier in the day that it has agreed to extend an agreement with Beijing regarding the appointment of Catholic bishops in China due to the "positive results" seen over the past two years.

Under the agreement, first signed in September 2018, Beijing proposes bishops for appointment by the Pope, who can either appoint or veto the recommendations.

"According to the Code of Canon Law, all bishops of the Catholic Church around the world are appointed by the Pope," Taiwan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said in a statement in response to the development.

"Civil authorities shall not be granted any rights and privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation of bishops," it said, adding that the Catholic Church should not be subjected to pressure from any government.

Nevertheless, MOFA said it hoped that the agreement would help improve religious freedom in the People's Republic of China (PRC), despite the continued deterioration of religious freedom and human rights there over the past two years.

Other observers have expressed concern that the Vatican could eventually establish diplomatic relations with China in exchange for greater collaboration in religion matters in the country, leaving Taiwan with no diplomatic allies in Europe.

Corriere della Sera, an Italian daily newspaper, reported on Tuesday that such a scenario could happen within two years if the bishop agreement proceeds smoothly.

Regarding such concerns, MOFA stressed that the Holy See has publicly stated on several occasions that the agreement "only deals with pastoral issues and does not touch on diplomatic or political matters."

"Taiwan highly values this solemn commitment and has maintained close contacts with the Holy See, expressing our concern and position," it said.

Meanwhile, MOFA noted that the Vatican and China did not "re-sign" the agreement, but reached a "tacit understanding" to extend its provisions for another two years and maintain its experimental nature for later evaluation.

MOFA said Taiwan will closely monitor related developments and continue to cooperate with the Holy See and the Catholic Church to safeguard religious freedom and support those who are persecuted for their faith.

(By Emerson Lim)

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