1999-02-15 00:00:00

Taiwan is taking a wait-and-see attitude regarding a report of the Holy See´s desire to move the Apostolic Nunciature in China from Taipei to Beijing, while China officials are reiterating Beijing´s position.

Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano was quoted as saying recently that the Holy See would be ready to switch its nunciature from Taipei to Beijing as soon as Beijing agreed to the move, but that this would not mean the breaking of relations with Taiwan.

Taiwan Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi of Kaohsiung told UCA News Feb. 13 that the conditions for such a move are not ripe in that "people in mainland China are still not enjoying the religious freedom that they are entitled to."

Cardinal Shan refused to comment at this stage on the impact such a move could have on the Church in the mainland and the Church in Taiwan, but said it has always been the Holy See´s hope to normalize relations with Beijing.

At a press conference Feb. 11, Beijing´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhang Qiyue said she was not clear about the report of the Vatican wanting to station a representative in Beijing.

Willingness to move the nunciature to Beijing would not, however, satisfy China´s conditions for a resumption of relations, she noted, since these include the breaking of relations with Taiwan.

Another foreign ministry spokesperson told UCA News the same day that the Chinese government is willing to improve relationship with the Vatican in line with its stand on an independent, autonomous and peaceful diplomatic policy.

She reiterated, though, that the two conditions are that the Vatican must cut off all diplomatic ties with Taiwan and must not interfere with China´s internal affairs, including through religious activities.

Meanwhile, the director general of the Department of European Affairs of Taiwan´s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, R.T. Yang, said that Taipei´s ties with the Vatican have always been close, and that moving the nunciature would not entail breaking off bilateral relations.

Taiwan´s Central News Agency (CNA) reported Feb. 12 that Yang said he is not surprised by news that the Vatican hopes to set up ties with mainland China to protect the religious freedom of the Catholics in the mainland.

The agency also reported that Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican´s secretary for relations with states, had spoken on the matter with Raymond Tai Rui-ming, Taipei´s ambassador to the Vatican.

During the meeting, it said, Archbishop Tauran had reassured the ambassador that despite Cardinal Sodano´s statement, the Holy See´s position with regard to Taipei remains unchanged, and that the Vatican would not develop relations with Beijing at the expense of its ties with Taipei.

Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the government-approved, Beijing-based Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, said that he has no knowledge of the dialogue between the Vatican and Beijing.

"Of course we would like to see that China and the Vatican establish diplomatic relations. This would be helpful to the Church in China as well as the universal Church. However, this is a matter between the two governments (Beijing and the Vatican)," he told UCA News Feb. 15.

He added that he believes the Church in Taiwan would not have any objection to such ties being established.

Regarding the appointment of bishops, which Beijing considers an internal affair, Liu said that bishops in China are expected to lead the Church to be patriotic as well as love the religion.

Although some people outside the country do not agree with this, he said, "it is not a religious issue, but differences in political stances."

A Vatican delegate was first stationed in Beijing in 1922. In 1946, when the Chinese Catholic Hierarchy was established, Vatican´s nunciature in China was set up in Nanjing, eastern China, the capital of the then-ruling nationalist Republic of China government.

Following the communist takeover of China in 1949, the internuncio was expelled in 1951, going first to the British colony of Hong Kong and then to Taipei in nationalist-ruled Taiwan in 1952.


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