Seven Taiwanese bishops visiting Rome have invited Pope Francis to make an historic first visit to Taiwan next March. Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, Taiwan's capital, said he liked to "dream the impossible." And Archbishop Hung, at a reception on May 10 held in Taiwan's embassy to the Holy See, reportedly made a humorous reference to predictions the embassy would have already "disappeared" by March of this year. He referred to news reports that mainland Communist China and the Holy See
would have by then agreed to establish diplomatic ties. That came amid speculation
an agreement between the Holy See and Beijing would be quickly reached on the appointment of bishops, clearing the way for the Holy See to shift recognition from Taiwan to Communist China. However,Archbishop Hung noted that this had not eventuated as it was "discovered that the relationship between Taiwan and the Vatican is full of rumors." A Vatican spokesman said on the eve of Holy Thursday that no deal was imminent. Meanwhile, Taiwan's seven bishops are providing a customary update to the Vatican on the state of their dioceses, something which generally takes place every five years. But the last time Taiwan's bishops visited the Vatican was in December 2008 when Benedict XVI was the pope. Archbishop Hung, when meeting with Pope Francis on the current trip, said he would formally invite him to Taiwan to attend the Eucharistic Congress to be held in Taiwan next March. And even if the pope was unable to visit Taiwan specifically, the archbishop hoped he would at least transit in Taiwan for a few hours as no pope had previously landed there. "The pope cares for the disadvantaged," Archbishop Hung said. Taiwan had been "weighed down" in the international community for decades by being treated as part of China and not allowed to participate in the United Nations. "The people feel like an international orphan," Archbishop Hung added. Bishop Han Yingjin of Sanyuan Diocese of Shaanxi province in China, who is recognized by the Vatican and China, told Radio Free Asia that the pope meeting with Taiwan's' bishops would have an impact.
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He thought that the Vatican would take their opinions into account along with some of the views of the Taiwanese government. But he believed that a final switching of diplomatic recognition by the Holy See was inevitable. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Secretary for Relations with States, the third highest position in the Vatican, told the embassy welcome ceremony that he hoped the bishops would returned to Taiwan with heightened courage and confidence after seeing the pope. Taiwan has fewer than 300,000 Catholics, just two percent of the population. The Vatican is one of 19 states having diplomatic relations with Taiwan