Vice President Chen receives warm welcome in Papal Palace

Vice President Chen Chien-jen and his wife Luo Feng-ping pray in front of a statue of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary.

Gandolfo, the Vatican, Oct. 12 (CNA)-Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and his delegation to the Vatican, on Friday received a warm welcome in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Paul VI’s summer residence.

Chen, who led the delegation to the Holy See to attend a ceremony to canonize Pope Paul VI and six others on Sunday, visited the palace as part of his itinerary. They were the only visitors and their visit was perceived as a special arrangement by the palace.

The trip came just after China and the Vatican signed an agreement concerning the appointment of bishops in China. Chen was appointed by President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) as her envoy to the Holy See to strengthen bilateral ties between Taipei and the Vatican.

Castel Gandolfo, about 25 kilometers from Rome, was designated by Pope Urban VIII in 1623 as a summer residence and every pope after him had resided in the palace during the summer before Pope Francis broke the routine in 2013 and opened it to the public in 2016.

After visiting Castel Gandolfo, however, Chen stopped talking about politics and instead prayed with his wife Luo Feng-ping (羅鳳蘋) in front of a statue of the Immaculate Blessed Virgin Mary located at a corner of the palace.

With assistance from a special tour guide, Chen and his delegation, which also included Deputy Foreign Minister Kelly Hsieh (謝武樵), surveyed portraits of every pope and their private living rooms as well as their wardrobe and furniture, including a famous antique desk in the pope’s study, where the popes mapped out their policies.

In addition, the pope’s living room had been used as a makeshift delivery room during World War II for female refugees who gave birth to more than 40 babies here.

Chen also took a close look at the photos taken during WWII when the war raged into central Italy and Pope Pius XII opened the garden of the palace as a shelter for more than 10,000 refugees. While visiting the garden, Chen praised the value of humanity and the Pope for protecting the refugees.

On Sunday, Pope Francis will canonize Pope Paul VI, along with El Salvador’s Archbishop Oscar Arnulfo Romero and five others, during the 15th ordinary general assembly of the Synod of Bishops from Oct. 3-28.

On behalf of the government, people and Catholic community in Taiwan, Chen will convey Taiwan’s congratulations to the Vatican and the country’s high esteem for Pope Francis and invite him to visit Taiwan, according to Hsieh.

On Friday, Chen said Taiwan continues to maintain steady and positive relations with the Holy See amid concerns over the agreement between the Vatican and Beijing. Chen’s delegation will return to Taiwan on Tuesday.