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Taiwan president briefs pope about exchange

Ma Ying-jeou says he promoted ties with mainland China in the hope of bringing peace

Taiwan president briefs pope about exchange
Taiwan President Ma Ying-jeou (fourth from left) joined other Catholic leaders in the closing celebration of the 150th anniversary for Catholicism in Taiwan in 2009 reporter, Taipei

January 28, 2011

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Taiwan president Ma Ying-jeou has told the pope about his efforts for peace through promoting cross-straits religious exchanges with mainland China in response to the pope’s message for the World Day of Peace for 2011. “I have actively promoted economic and cultural ties between Taiwan and mainland China in the hope of bringing about cross-strait peace and prosperity,” Ma wrote in his open letter. Religious ties between the two sides become closer, with many priests from mainland China visiting Taiwan, he noted. In less than six months since last September, the Catholic Church and other religions in Taiwan have received two high-level religious delegations from mainland China, including one led by Wang Zuo’an, director of the state administration for religious affairs. Ma also said he shared the pope’s view that when religious freedom is acknowledged, human dignity is “respected at its root” and reaffirmed Taiwan’s determination to promote universal values such as democracy, human rights and religious freedom as it marks its centenary. His other past efforts include ratifying the international covenants on civil and political rights and on economic, social and cultural rights in 2009, and incorporating them into domestic laws. Last December, a committee was set up to advice the government on policies formulation and to submit human rights reports, aiming to bring Taiwan up to international standards. President Ma, a Catholic who no longer practises his faith, believes people in Taiwan “do enjoy, and indeed uphold, religious freedom” and respect different cultures as it has been an integral part of Chinese traditions since ancient times. This is evidenced by a number of historic landmarks, he said, citing a Confucius temple in southern Taiwan that was built in 1686, next to which is a stone tablet inscribed with an imperial edict ordering every passing official, soldier and civilian to dismount from their horses as a tribute. In the 19th century, Catholics built the Immaculate Conception Minor Basilica some 30 kilometers away and Qing Emperor Tongzhi also ordered inscribing the same “imperial edict” next to it. “This example perfectly encapsulates the fact that Taiwan has a long history of giving equal respect to both Catholicism and Confucianism,” the president said. The Vatican is currently Taiwan’s sole diplomatic partner in Europe. Taiwan presidents in the past also responded to the pope’s peace messages. Related reports Mainlanders meet Taiwan cardinal for talks Top mainland religious officials visit Taiwan Church bells to ring out for Republic of China Visiting official invites Taiwan cardinal to China Religious official visits Taipei archbishop TA13068.1638
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