Vice President of Taiwan Philip Chen Chien-jen visited Pingtung county to switch on the Christmas lights in a minor basilica and a church-run home for the elderly, but could not help talking politics with an old friend. The visit, on Dec.15, included a stop at the Hsiao Ai home for the elderly where Chen, a devout Catholic, visited a retired Holy See diplomat for a 30-minute private chat. It was the second time Chen visited Archbishop Thomas Yeh Sheng-nan, 75, who lives at the home. His first visit was during Chinese Lunar New Year in February, two weeks after Chen was elected vice president on Jan. 16. Archbishop Yeh was the former apostolic nuncio to Algeria and Tunisia before he retired in 2015. He was the only Vatican diplomat from Taiwan. "Chen likely sought the archbishop's advice on diplomatic issues since the ruling party, the Democratic Progressive Party, is known to be less experienced in international relations than the nationalist party which has a longer ruling history," said a church observer, who asked not to be named. "Taiwan-Vatican relations may have been a focus…. The U.S. president-elect Donald Trump's phone call with President of Taiwan Tsai Ing-wen has also shaken the political circle," he added. The vice president of Taiwan Philip Chen (second in the first row) with retired Vatican diplomat Archbishop Thomas Yeh (first in the first row) at Hsiao Ai Home of the Aged in Pingtung county. (ucanews.com photo)
Chen told the China Review
on Dec. 15 that Taiwan has "very good relations" with the Vatican. "Our government is very concerned about the relationship between Taiwan and the Vatican and has been trying its best to maintain it," Archbishop Yeh told the same agency. He said that the relationship between Taiwan and the Vatican is currently "normal without any problems." In the lighting ceremony at Hsiao Ai, Chen said, "Christmas lighting reminds us of the love and hope that Jesus Christ brings us, giving each of us peace on Earth." "My wife and I like to visit the home as we can feel the joy of Christmas before it arrives," he told several dozen residents. The same evening, Chen and Archbishop Yeh jointly officiated the annual Christmas lighting ceremony along with a few celebrities at the Minor Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Wanjin, a small town with a Catholic population of 3,000.
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"The lighting ceremony has an important meaning because of what the Bible told us: to be salt and light on Earth," Chen said. Recalling his promise to brighten up Taiwan in the presidential election campaign, Chen said he now also hoped Taiwan could "use its freedom, democracy, human rights and rule of law to illuminate Asia and show to the world the importance of universal values."