Taiwan watches Vatican-China ties, says China violated deal on bishops

By Thomson Reuters May 21, 2024 | 11:08 PM

TAIPEI (Reuters) – Taiwan is paying close attention to interactions between the Vatican and China, the island’s foreign ministry said on Wednesday, adding that China has “repeatedly violated” a 2018 agreement on the appointment of bishops.

The Vatican, which only has formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan, would like to establish a permanent office in China, its secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, said on Tuesday, in what would be a major upgrade of diplomatic relations.

The Vatican is one of only a dozen countries to maintain formal diplomatic ties with Chinese-claimed Taiwan and Taipei has watched nervously as Pope Francis seeks to improve ties with Beijing.

Responding to Parolin’s comments, Taiwan’s foreign ministry said it continued to promote co-operation with the Vatican and the Catholic Church in fields such as humanitarian assistance, and jointly defend the core values of religious freedom.

“We understand that the Holy See hopes to promote the freedom of belief and rights of Chinese Catholics, and has publicly expressed its desire to send representatives to China many times,” it said in a statement.

In the 100 years since the first Chinese synod was held in 1924, China has “clamped down on religious freedom” the ministry added, and has “repeatedly violated” a 2018 agreement on appointing bishops.

The ministry called on all nations to work together to urge China to stop its “violations of religious freedom and basic human rights”.

Taiwan’s deputy environment minister Shih Wen-chen led a delegation to a Vatican seminar on climate change this month, which met the Pope, demonstrating the deep friendship between Taiwan and the Vatican, it added.

It also said the Vatican sent an envoy, its ambassador to the Philippines, Charles John Brown, to Monday’s inauguration of Taiwan President Lai Ching-te.

China says Taiwan is one of its provinces with no right to state-to-state ties, a position the government in Taipei rejects.

(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)