Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen presents a gift to Archbishop Thomas Chung An-zu of Taipei after he was installed at a function at Chung Mei Church in Fujen Catholic University on July 18. (Photo supplied)
Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has invited the Church to work with her government for the welfare of young people after attending ceremonies to install a new Catholic archbishop in capital Taipei.
Archbishop Thomas Chung An-zu of Taipei Archdiocese was installed on July 18 at Chung Mei Church in Fujen Catholic University. Some 1,000 people, including representatives of other faiths and government officials, attended the ceremonies.
Archbishop Chung is the eighth prelate of Taipei. He was transferred from Kiayi Diocese to Taipei on May 23 when Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan retired.
Church observers say Tsai's presence at the installation of Archbishop Chung should also be seen as a political statement to China, which considers Taiwan part of the communist country where Christians continue to be persecuted.
Tsai addressed the gathering after the ceremony and said Archbishop Chung prioritized his work with young people. He achieved "fruitful results in promoting young people through pastoral work and international youth exchanges."
The president said the Church's century-long presence in Taiwan had been marked by its work for the country's development.
The Holy See is among just 14 nations that have accepted Taiwan, officially called the Republic of China, as an individual country.
"Over the past few decades, the Church has helped Taiwan society in so many ways and at so many levels that it is impossible to describe them in a few words or a few days," Tsai said.
The president said her government had been actively promoting youth in recent years. "The joint efforts of the Church and the government can develop the potential of young people in Taiwan and bring change in society."
Archbishop Chung's work to promote social welfare, education, healthcare and interreligious harmony has won the appreciation of the local Church, society and the Holy See, she said.
'No impact on Vatican-China relations'
Archbishop Chung told UCA News that his appointment in Taipei would not significantly impact the relations between China, Taiwan and the Vatican.
He said the Vatican is concerned about relations with Taiwan. He cited two examples: first, the Vatican did not allow Taipei to lay vacant when its archbishop retired in May.
"The Vatican immediately appointed a bishop from another diocese to take over his duties," Archbishop Chung said, referring to the Vatican putting him in charge of the Church in the capital city.
Secondly, Bishop Chung said, before he left his former diocese of Kiayi, the chargé d'affaires of the Vatican' embassy in Taipei, Monsignor Arnaldo Catalan, visited him and requested some information.
"I think he will give a report to the Vatican and it will include matters such as the Taiwanese government's democratic society, relationship with the Church and religious freedom," the bishop said.
"I can assure you that the Vatican's relations with Taiwan will develop normally."
Archbishop Chung was among 22 prelates appointed on July 8 to the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. The prelate said it was "a testament" to the importance the Vatican attaches to the Church in Taiwan.
The bishop has been actively leading the Church to have exchanges with Buddhism, Taoism and other religions. He also assists religious groups in visiting the Vatican. He is also a member of the Taiwan bishops' committee for religious dialogue.
Catholics in Taipei see the religious policy of their democratic country as a contrast to that of communist China.
"The Chinese Communist Party wants only to suppress and persecute Christians, while Taiwan's president can join the installation ceremony of our archbishop and congratulate him," said Michael, a Taipei Catholic and history teacher.