By Joseph Yeh, The China Post
TAIPEI, Taiwan — Vice President Wu Den-yih (吳敦義) yesterday departed Taiwan for the Holy See to attend the canonizations of Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII scheduled for April 27. On behalf of President Ma Ying-jeou, Wu represents the R.O.C. government in attending the ceremony to be held at the Vatican, Taiwan’s only diplomatic ally in Europe. Speaking to media ahead of his departure at the Taoyuan International Airport yesterday morning, Wu said his trip is also meant to promote closer ties between the two countries, which have maintained diplomatic relations for 73 years. The visit will mark the R.O.C.’s second official delegation to the Holy See since Ma took office in 2008. Ma visited last year to attend the installation of Pope Francis. Wu is the third R.O.C. vice president to visit the Vatican after Lien Chan (連戰) in 1997 and Annette Lu (呂秀蓮) in 2002.
According to the Foreign Ministry, Wu will present Pope Francis with a portrait of the Pope painted by a Taiwanese artist as a gift.
The vice president is also scheduled to meet with Taiwanese priests posted in the Vatican and Taiwanese expatriates living there, before returning home April 30. Stopover in New Delhi Wu’s plane made a stopover for a refill at the New Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, India around noon yesterday. The aircraft left 90 minutes later, heading to Rome. Wu is the first political leader from the R.O.C. to make such a stopover in India’s capital.
Ma’s plane made a stopover in Mumbai en route to Africa last April.
Wu’s visit came a month after foreign media reports that said Pope Francis is hoping to develop friendly ties with China. An Italian newspaper reported last month that Pope Francis exchanged letters with Communist Party General Secretary Xi Jinping (習近平) last March, just days after he was elected pope. ”We are close to China,” Pope Francis said in the interview with Corriere della Sera, which was published in March. The pope said he sent a letter to Xi and that Xi also replied to him, a gesture hinting at closer bilateral relations.
China and the Holy See have been at odds for decades over the Vatican’s diplomatic ties with Taiwan.