Taipei-The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said Thursday that it is closely monitoring exchanges between China and the Holy See after the two sides recently agreed to hold an art exhibition, a move seen as building stronger ties.
The Vatican announced that the Vatican Museums and the China Cultural Industrial Investment Fund are joining forces to promote two exhibits which will open simultaneously in the Vatican Museums and the Forbidden City palace complex in Beijing in the spring of 2018, Catholic News Agency reported on Tuesday.
The exhibits mark the first time the Vatican Museums and a Chinese cultural institution have collaborated and is the result of a joint-project between the two called "Beauty Unites Us," aimed at creating forms of cultural collaboration through art, the report said.
The latest announcement added to a growing list of developments that taken together seem to indicate the Vatican and Beijing are closer than ever, with the former making many goodwill gestures to Beijing, especially since Pope Francis assumed the papacy in March 2013.
Mainland China and the Holy See have been at odds over the issue of who has the authority to appoint bishops and the Vatican's diplomatic ties with Taiwan.
The R.O.C.-Vatican diplomatic relationship was officially established in 1942.
Asked to comment, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (???) said the ministry is fully aware of the wide ranging interactions and dialogue between Beijing and the Holy See.
However, he also stressed that Taiwan maintains close ties and communications with its only European diplomatic ally and bilateral ties remain strong and stable.
Citing the recently concluded XXIV World Congress of the Apostleship of the Sea held in Kaohsiung last month and the ongoing 6th Buddhist-Christian Colloquium in New Taipei City, Lee said these are evidence of strong ties.
Meanwhile, Lee refused to comment on another report that suggested the Chinese government has warned its state-controlled tourism industry not to send any tour groups to the Vatican and Palau, both of which are diplomatic allies of Taiwan.
An employee at China's Phoenix Holidays International Travel Agency said travel agencies received a directive dated Nov. 16 ordering them to delete the Vatican and Palau from their list of destinations or face fines, according to media reports on Wednesday.
The reports did not give a reason for the decision but many suspect it is politically motivated.
Lee said China's reported decision to prevent its nationals from visiting the Vatican and Palau is a "unilateral move" and declined to comment on the issue, though he did say the decision will not affect Taiwan's ties with its two allies.
Lee would not comment as to whether Beijing is adopting a "carrot and stick approach" to the Vatican as it seeks to pressure the Holy See to switch its allegiance.
Meanwhile, a Mainland Affairs Council statement called on Beijing not to interfere in the travel arrangements its people make to other countries. It also noted that the move is not helpful in maintaining cordial cross-strait relations.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel