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Vatican envoy attends presidential inauguration in Taiwan

Taiwan and the Vatican have maintained formal diplomatic relations for over eight decades
Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te (L) and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (R) wave to people after his inaugural speech after being sworn into office during the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on May 20.

Taiwan's President Lai Ching-te (L) and Vice President Hsiao Bi-khim (R) wave to people after his inaugural speech after being sworn into office during the inauguration ceremony at the Presidential Office Building in Taipei on May 20. (Photo: Sam Yeh/AFP)

Published: May 20, 2024 10:42 AM GMT
Updated: May 20, 2024 11:29 AM GMT

Vatican envoy Archbishop Charles Brown attended the inauguration ceremony of Taiwan’s new president Lai Ching-te on May 20, reports say.

Taiwan News reported on May 20 that Brown, the apostolic nuncio to the Philippines, will visit Taiwan from May 19 to 21.

Lai, 64, a member of the ruling nationalist Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), was elected 8th president of Taiwan on Jan. 13.

The DPP won the election for the third consecutive term despite mounting threats from China, which attempted to influence the polls on the island. China considers Taiwan a breakaway province.

After appointing Brown as an envoy to the ceremony, Pope Francis instructed him to deliver congratulatory messages to the new president and pray for prosperity and success for all of Taiwan's people, Taiwan News reported, referring to the Foreign Ministry.

Brown attended the state banquet of former President Tsai Ing-wen on May 19.

Monsignor Stefano Mazzotti, Vatican’s Chargé d'Affaires in Taiwan, accompanied Brown at the inauguration ceremony, congratulatory events, and celebration gathering.

They are expected to attend the state banquet in Tainan city on May 20 and get an audience with President Lai.

“Taiwan and the Holy See have a profound and solid friendship based on the shared universal values of freedom, peace, and human rights," Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

It added that the relationship between the two is “rich and multifaceted.”

The ministry pledged that Taiwan will continue collaborating with the Holy See to “promote global human welfare and dignity.”

Following his inauguration, the new president has called on Beijing to stop its “intimidation” and allow Taiwan to decide its future.

During his 30-minute speech, Lai said he intended to send a message of peace and declare that a “glorious era of Taiwan’s democracy has arrived.” 

He describe the island as an “important link” in a “global chain of democracies,” while reiterating its determination to defend its sovereignty, CNN reported.

“The future of the Republic of China Taiwan will be decided by its 23 million people. The future we decide is not just the future of our nation, but the future of the world,” Lai said, using the formal name for Taiwan.

Taiwan is a sovereign, democratic nation though it never officially declared independence. China considers Taiwan as its territory and has repeatedly threatened to annex it militarily.

About four percent of Taiwan’s estimated 24 million people are Christians, according to official data. Buddhists make up about 35 percent, Taoists 33 percent, and non-religious about 19 percent.

Catholic Church in Taiwan has about 300,000 members in one archdiocese and six dioceses.

Taiwan does not have sovereign status in the United Nations. However, it maintains diplomatic relations with 14 countries and trade relations with some 47 states.

The US is Taiwan’s strongest ally, and the Vatican is the only European state to maintain diplomatic relations with Taiwan

Taiwan has maintained diplomatic relations with the Vatican since Oct. 23, 1942.

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