TAIPEI — Taiwan will continue its close relationship with the Holy See under the leadership of Pope Francis, a Taiwanese foreign affairs official said Tuesday, adding that the longstanding bilateral diplomatic ties remain strong.
The Republic of China, as Taiwan is called officially, has maintained diplomatic ties for 71 years with the Holy See, and both sides share values such as freedom, democracy and human rights, said Calvin Ho, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, at a news briefing.
“We believe that under the new pope’s leadership, we will continue the close cooperation between the two sides and the ties will remain solid,” he said.
Both sides have been collaborating in the areas of humanitarian aid and medical missions, Ho said, responding to questions on China’s reported recent proposal that the Holy See cut its ties with Taiwan and instead established formal diplomatic relations with China.
The proposal reportedly was made after Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected last week as the 266th leader of the 1.2-billion strong Catholic Church, which is governed by the Holy See from within the sovereign independent state of Vatican City.
President Ma Ying-jeou, at the head of an ROC delegation, is among the leaders from some 180 nations attending the investiture of the new pope, who took the name Francis, at the Vatican on Tuesday.
The Holy See is the ROC’s only diplomatic ally in Europe.
Florencia Hsie, deputy director-general of the foreign ministry’s Department of Latin American and Caribbean Affairs, said at the news conference that Pope Francis is familiar with Taiwan affairs.
As a Catholic cardinal in Argentina, he met last July with Taiwan’s representative to Argentina, Matthew Lee, and they talked about Taiwan, the development of Taiwan-China ties and relations between Taiwan and the Holy See, Hsie said.