The Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See in Rome. (ucanews.com photo)
Advocates of Taiwanese independence have called on Pope Francis to retain diplomatic relations with Taiwan as the Vatican explores the possibility of establishing diplomatic relations with mainland China.
An open letter by the Formosan Association for Public Affairs (FAPA), a US-based lobby group promoting Taiwanese independence, called on the pope to "consider moving towards 'dual recognition' of both governments in Beijing and Taipei."
The letter comes as China and the Vatican enters another round of negotiations, with Reuters reporting an accord might be imminent. While negotiations are said to be about the appointment of bishops in China, in Taiwan there are concerns this might ultimately lead to changes in Taiwan-Vatican diplomatic relations.
Published on Aug. 8 on FAPA's Facebook page, the lobby group's president Peter Chen told the pope, via the letter, that the Chinese Communist Party forced nations to choose between maintaining diplomatic relations with either Taipei or Beijing.
"Even though I fully understand the importance of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Beijing, I respectfully ask that you pledge, while you consider establishing diplomatic ties with China, that your initiative will be based on the principle of not hurting diplomatic relations with Taiwan," wrote Chen.
"Dual diplomatic recognition would entail not abandoning the 23 million people of Taiwan and the believers in Taiwan of the Catholic faith."
"It would also set a precedent for other countries to emulate. To paraphrase Luke 15:4: 'A good shepherd never loses even one sheep,'" he wrote.
On Aug. 5, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan stated that it "was closely observing developments indicating the Vatican might be moving closer to establishing diplomatic relations with China."
Michael Chen, president of Shih Chien University, thinks that if the Vatican has no choice but to recognize mainland China, "recognizing both Beijing and Taipei governments is a good option."
"But I fear that Beijing's adherence to its 'one China policy,' which treats Taiwan as part of China [might] force the pope to give up on the 300,000 Catholics in Taiwan," said the Catholic scholar.
"No matter what the result is, the church in Taiwan should loudly voice to the pope, the earthly representative of Christ, that his decision should be different from the considerations of politicians or state leaders," Chen told ucanews.com.
Liu Ching-shu, a layman in Taipei, agreed with the proposal for dual recognition on the condition, "it is good for the salvation of mainland Chinese."
"But at the same time, I hope the government across the straits understands and trusts the Catholic Church. They shouldn't intervene in church affairs," he said.