Cardinal Joseph Zen said yesterday that despite difficult relations with Beijing the Vatican should do all it could to maintain and strengthen its relations with Taiwan.
His comments came during a one-day seminar as part of ongoing commemorations of 70 years of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China and the Holy See, held at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei.
The retired bishop of Hong Kong, 81, gave a two-hour speech during which he said that faith holds fast to principles, while diplomacy was merely one of many pastoral tools.
The ceremony, which was originally planned as a two-day symposium, drew about 60 people – mostly students and staff of the university – but also included the papal representative in Taiwan, Monsignor Paul Russell.
No Taiwan officials attended the event.
“The Vatican would be wrong if it gave up on Taiwan, as the Church has never abandoned a friend in its history,” Cardinal Zen said, referring to ongoing diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Taiwan.
The Vatican is the only European country to maintain diplomatic ties with Taiwan. Bilateral ties were established in 1942 and persisted after Mao Zedong’s Communist party took control of mainland China.
The Shanghai-born cardinal told attendees yesterday that the Holy See’s compromising policies with respect to Beijing had created confusion among Chinese Catholics over legitimacy within the Church.
“The Vatican’s giving in has not yielded good results. The Beijing government is enslaving the Church,” he said, adding that reconciliation of the “open” and “underground” Church communities in China is not yet possible.
Cardinal Zen further compared China’s situation with that of Eastern European countries such as the Czech Republic, where Catholics remained faithful to Rome despite tight Communist restrictions.
Despite the failure of Czech-Vatican diplomatic relations, the Catholic faith there was preserved, he said.
Tou Chu-seng, Taiwan’s former ambassador to the Holy See, also spoke at the seminar and warned that several obstacles – chief among them, the authority of the pope to appoint bishops – continue to affect peaceful relations between China and the Vatican.