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Taipei and Beijing respond to Vatican official's speech

Beijing hopes that the Vatican 'will handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence'

Taipei and Beijing respond to Vatican official's speech

A 2015 file image of Pope Francis and Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State. (Photo by AFP)

September 1, 2016

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China and Taiwan have both responded to a speech by the Vatican Secretary of State that set an optimistic tone for the ongoing talks between the Holy See and Beijing that could end half a century of diplomatic silence.

Beijing agreed the current dialogue is effective while Taipei stressed that it values its relationship with both China and Vatican.

Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, set out his "hopes and expectations for a new season of relations between the Apostolic See and China for the benefit not only of Catholics in the land of Confucius but for the entire country," in a speech on Aug. 24.

China broke off diplomatic relations with the Vatican in 1951 and relations have been fraught ever since. One of Beijing's requirements for mending the broken ties is that the Vatican sever its relationship with Taiwan who China believes is not an independent state due to its "one-China policy."

"China is always sincere about improving its relations with Vatican, and has made relentless efforts to this end," said Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a regular press conference on Aug. 29.

"The current channel of dialogue and contact between the two sides runs well and effectively," she said.

"Following certain principles, we would like to work together with the Vatican [to create] a constructive dialogue, meet each other halfway and strive for the continuous development of bilateral relations."

It was the second time in less than a week that Cardinal Parolin touched on the China issue since a Reuters report in July revealed that the Holy See and China were ready for an accord.

Cardinal John Tong Hon of Hong Kong also wrote a commentary confirming "early results" between the two parties.

Cardinal Parolin said China-Vatican talks are proceeding "in a spirit of good will" in an interview with Avvenire, a newspaper of the Italian Bishops' Conference. The path of mutual understanding and trust "takes time, patience and foresight on both sides. We are trying to find realistic solutions for the good of all," he said.

It was also the second time China mentioned its relations with the Holy See. Lu Kang, another Beijing spokesperson, addressed the upcoming visit of Taiwan's first Catholic Vice President Philip Chen Chien-jen to the Vatican affirming the "one-China principle."

"We hope that [they]… will handle Taiwan-related issues with prudence," Lu said in a press conference on Aug. 25.

Taiwanese Vice President Chen will attend the canonization ceremony of Mother Teresa that will be presided over by Pope Francis on Sept. 4. He will also meet with high-level Vatican officials during his six-day visit.

Wu Chih-chung, deputy minister of Taiwan's Foreign Affairs, told press on Aug. 27 that Taiwan expects its good relations with the Vatican to continue.  

Wu welcomed China and the Vatican's thawing relationship and said that he expects Taiwan will keep an open dialogue with both the Vatican and China. "This is a good thing," Wu told press. "It would be great if China gets religious freedom… it is not a zero-sum game [for Taiwan], if I am good to you, it doesn't mean I have to sever ties with him."

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