Apr 22, 2005

Taiwan: Beijing Asks New Pope to Sever Relations with Taiwan

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing will be willing to improve ties with the Vatican if the pontiff would sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan
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The nation's embassy to the Holy See seems to have been well prepared yesterday to cement ties with the newly elected Pope Benedict XVI, while Beijing, as expected, requested that the pontiff sever diplomatic relations with Taiwan.

A senior official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican Tou Chou-seng has reached out to all cardinals before the conclave.

The Pope, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, was "friendly" when approached by Taiwanese diplomats, said the official, who requested anonymity.

"It is not good to comment on Taiwan-Vatican ties at the present stage," the official said.

MOFA issued a statement to congratulate Pope Benedict yesterday, vowing to continue supporting the Vatican's humanitarian activities and increase the new Pope's understanding of Taiwan.

China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said Beijing will be willing to improve ties with the Vatican under two conditions.

"Firstly, the new Pope should end the Vatican's so-called diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Secondly, the Pope should not intervene in China's domestic affairs in the name of religion," he said.

Qin said that China hopes the Vatican, under the leadership of the new Pope, will be able to meet the two conditions.

Cardinal Paul Shan, the only Taiwanese or ethnic Chinese cardinal, told the Central News Agency in the Vatican that Pope Benedict is an "extraordinarily outstanding man and theologian."

"He is a good friend of the late Pope John Paul. Ratzinger is clear-minded and knows the proper way of saying things. He would not compromise on religion," Shan said.

The cardinal dismissed the media's description of the new Pope as a conservative. He said there are no so-called conservatives or liberals in the church. It is the media, he said, that chose to use these terms.

Pope Benedict's most urgent task now is to appoint key officials in the Vatican and restore its operations, Shan said.

The Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference (CRBC) -- which ministers to Catholics in Taiwan -- issued a statement to announce that a new pontiff has been elected.

"May the Lord be with him and lead the Church so that the Church can be the light of the world and the salt of the earth," it said.

Taiwan's Catholic churches plan to hold simultaneous masses when the Pope Benedict celebrates his first Sunday mass as pontiff in St. Peter's basilica in the Vatican this weekend, according to the statement.

Father John Chen, secretary-general of the CRBC, said yesterday the Vatican would not seek diplomatic relations out of political or economic motives.

The Holy See's main purpose of establishing official ties with China, Chen said, is to take care of Chinese Catholics.

Source: Taipei Times