Taipei, Taiwan on Monday welcomed Pope Francis' appointment of a special envoy to attend a National Eucharistic Congress to be held in the country in March, saying that the decision again shows strong and cordial bilateral ties between the island and the Vatican.
The Holy See announced last Saturday that the Pope had appointed Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, to the concluding celebration of the 4th National Eucharistic Congress in Taiwan, to be held in Yunlin County on March 1.
Asked to comment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) said on Monday that the Pope's decision to send a special envoy to the national congress demonstrated strong ties between Taiwan and the Holy See, its only diplomatic ally in the Europe.
This will also mark the first time that Cardinal Fernando Filoni, a close friend of Taiwan, visits the country since he took office as the prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in May 2011, said MOFA in a statement.
The Pope previously sent Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Giuseppe Versaldi, to attend a previous version of the National Eucharistic Congress in Taiwan held in 2016, according to MOFA.
The upcoming visit came after a group of Taiwanese bishops held their first ad limina meeting with the Pope in 10 years last May to report on the state of their dioceses. During the visit, the bishops invited Pope Francis to come to Taiwan on the occasion of the National Eucharistic Congress.
The announcement of the special envoy's visit to Taiwan came against the backdrop of a historic agreement signed between the Holy See and China on the appointment of bishops in September 2018.
Some believed that with the pact bringing Beijing and the Holy See closer on a key issue, the Vatican could soon abandon its official diplomatic ties with Taipei and recognize Beijing instead.
Taiwan's government, however, has said the Holy See has repeatedly reaffirmed to officials here that the provisional agreement is "not of a political or diplomatic nature" and will not affect the diplomatic relationship with the Republic of China (ROC) that has been in place for 76 years.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel