Despite Ambassador´s Resignation, Taiwan-Holy See Ties To Remain Unchanged, Observers Say

Taiwan
2008-09-12 14:49:28
The change of Taiwan´s ambassador to the Holy See does not imply significant progress in Beijing-Vatican relations and will not affect Taiwan´s diplomatic ties with the Holy See, Church observers said. ta_taipei_1.gifTou Chou-seng, 66, ambassador of the Republic of China to the Holy See since January 2004, has resigned, effective Sept. 15, after serving in its Vatican embassy for almost five years. President Ma Ying-jeou accepted the resignation on Aug. 28. Larry Wang Yu-yuan, 61, who has been heading the Taiwan Representative Office in the Netherlands since 2006, will replace Tou. Wang once led the Department of European Affairs in Taiwan´s foreign ministry and also has served at the Taiwan Representative Office in Argentina and in the United States. Raymond Tai Rui-ming, Tou´s predecessor as Taiwan´s ambassador to the Holy See 1996-2004, said bilateral relations have become stable over the recent decade, with the Holy See and Taiwan sharing the goal of "promoting peace and charity." Even if there is any change in future, he pointed out, "we should not take diplomatic relations too seriously, as survival of the Republic of China mainly relies on countries without diplomatic ties." Tai expressed confidence in Wang when he spoke with UCA News on Sept. 5, saying he is "nice and experienced," and will build on the existing good relations successive ambassadors have cultivated with the Holy See. Outgoing Ambassador Tou bade farewell to Pope Benedict XVI on Sept. 4, according to the Holy See Press Office. Tou served as Taiwan´s ambassador to Senegal and vice foreign minister before his appointment to Taiwan´s embassy to the Holy See. He was baptized in Rome in 2006, joining his wife, Maria Chiu Ta-huan, and their two sons as a Catholic with the baptismal name Christopher. Taiwan´s official news agency reported on Aug. 29 that Tou described Taiwan-Holy See relations as steady and said he could feel "at ease" in leaving his post. Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei has invited him to teach there, and he hopes to spend more time with his family, since his wife returned to Taiwan to teach in another university in September 2007, the report said. A foreign ministry spokesperson told UCA News on Sept. 5 that Tou´s decision was due to his "personal career plan." Bilateral relations are "smooth and steady," and Tou´s resignation will have no influence, she noted. In the view of Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan of Taipei, president of the Taiwan Catholic bishops´ conference, Ambassador Tou "has done very good work." He told UCA News Tou´s resignation will not have any impact on Taiwan-Holy See ties or on China-Holy See relations, which the prelate called "a matter of religious freedom and not the concern of a change of ambassador." Ku Wei-ying, a Catholic history scholar at National Taiwan University, admitted Tou´s resignation was unexpected. "Tou is not old, and after being baptized he became enthusiastic in Church activities, so I wonder why he is leaving the office now," he remarked to UCA News. Since Tou does not have a strong political party background, the change of ambassador would not be a consequence of the change in administration in May from the Democratic Progressive Party to the Kuomintang, or Nationalist Party, Ku noted. The scholar suggested Tou´s resignation might be due to "multiple causes," including possible changes in China-Holy See relations as well as the fact that September is the time universities begin the new academic year. However, Kwun Ping-hung, a Hong Kong-based expert on China-Holy See relations, is convinced Tou´s resignation does not correlate with any change in China-Holy See relations, since no signs indicate any major breakthroughs on that front. "The change in ambassador does not signify any change in Taiwan-Vatican diplomatic ties either," the non-Catholic researcher told UCA News. The Holy See is the only European state that maintains full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, even though it is represented at the Apostolic Nunciature in Taipei by a charge d´affaires. The Holy See changed its diplomat in Taipei in June. The pope appointed U.S.-born Monsignor Paul Fitzpatrick Russell as charge d´affaires, replacing Indian Monsignor Ambrose Madtha, who was elevated to archbishop with his appointment as apostolic nuncio to Ivory Coast in West Africa. END
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