Vatican official Antoine Camilleri attended a party organized by Taiwan's embassy to the Holy See in Rome on Tuesday to celebrate the Republic of China's National Day, a move seemingly intended to dispel rumors of unstable bilateral relations.
The appearance of Camilleri, the Vatican's deputy foreign minister, attracted particular attention because he was the one who signed an agreement on behalf of the Vatican on the appointment of bishops in China with the Chinese government on Sept. 22.
The signing of the agreement led many analysts to speculate that it was another step toward the Vatican formally establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing and ending ties with Taipei.
Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican Matthew S.M. Lee (???) reiterated at the reception, however, that the agreement between the Vatican and China was aimed more at dealing with religious affairs in China rather than political issues.
He said high ranking Vatican officials have told him that the Holy See will continue to be a committed partner of Taiwan.
"We believe the Vatican wants the agreement to give the Chinese people a chance to lead a normal life of faith, ease the oppression of Chinese Catholics, facilitate the integration of Chinese Catholic churches and universal churches, and in turn help promote religious freedom throughout China," Lee said.
Taiwan loves peace and proactively participates in international humanitarian relief operations, but regardless of its efforts in humanitarian aid, China still blocks Taiwan from playing a meaningful role in the world body, the ambassador said.
Lee described Taiwan's predicament as like David facing Goliath, but he said Taiwan will push forward and with the support of its global partners stand up to the rise of authoritarian power.
Addressing media speculation that Taiwan's ties with the Vatican could change, Lee said a delegation of seven bishops from Taiwan met with the pope in May on an ad limina visit, the first such visit in 10 years.
Ad limina visits are obligatory visits by the bishops of dioceses to the Holy See to report on the state of their dioceses to the pope.
During the meeting, the bishops thanked the pope for his concern for Taiwan and taking concrete action to deal with rumors of a possible shift in bilateral relations, Lee said.
The Vatican is Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe and one of only 17 around the world.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel