Taiwan welcomes Pope’s special envoy to Taipei

In this file photo, Pope Francis shakes hands with Cardinal Fernando Filoni after praying in front of a statue of the Virgin Mary, on the occasion of the Immaculate Conception's feast, in Rome, Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Taiwan on Feb. 28 welcomed the visit of Pope Francis’ special envoy to the country to attend a National Eucharistic Congress to be held Friday, saying that the decision again shows that the Vatican deeply cherishes Catholics in Taiwan.

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, arrived in Taiwan that day to attend the concluding celebration of the 4th National Eucharistic Congress in Taiwan, to be held in Yunlin County March 1, according to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA).

During his visit that will last until March 3, Filoni will also meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) and Foreign Minister Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), as well as attending a series of Catholic-related events, the statement said.

The Eucharistic Congress is a gathering of clergy that lays people to bear witness to the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, an important Roman Catholic doctrine, according to MOFA.

Since 2011, Taiwan’s seven Catholic dioceses have been taking turns to hold the event every two to three years. This year’s 4th National Eucharistic Congress is being hosted by the Diocese of Chiayi, but will be staged at the nearby Yunlin County stadium.

The pope previously sent Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for Catholic Education, Giuseppe Versaldi, to attend a National Eucharistic Congress in Taiwan in 2016, according to MOFA.

The current visit comes 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 to attend the National Eucharistic Congress. The pope later decided to send Filoni instead.

By Joseph Yeh