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Vice President Chen hosts banquet at Vatican
Vice President Chen hosts banquet at Vatican

During his trip to the Vatican to attend the canonization of Pope Paul VI, Vice President Chen Chien-jen and Mrs. Chen hosted a banquet on the evening of October 13 local time (early morning of October 14 Taipei time) at the A.Roma Lifestyle Hotel. The banquet was held in honor of Taiwanese Catholic clergy members and representatives from the expatriate community living and working in the Vatican and Italy.

After ROC Ambassador to the Holy See Matthew S.M. Lee (李世明) delivered the opening remarks and Vice President Chen took group photos with the guests, Bishop Thomas An-zu Chung (鍾安住) of the Diocese of Chiayi led the assembled guests in a pre-banquet prayer. During the banquet, the wife and two daughters of Dr. Paul Tien (田春生) from Tainan performed works arranged for piano, soprano and flute including White Peonies (a popular Taiwanese folk song), Mattinata (a well-known Italian song), and the much-loved Salut d'Amour.

In his remarks, Vice President Chen said he was honored to represent President Tsai Ing-wen and the people of Taiwan, and lead a delegation to the Vatican to attend the canonization of Pope Paul VI and six other saints. As a Catholic, he said, this trip was meaningful to him personally, but is even more significant for the long-standing friendship between the Vatican and Taiwan.

Vice President Chen stated that many milestones in Taiwan-Vatican relations were achieved during the 15-year reign of Pope Paul VI, including the upgrading of the Vatican's diplomatic mission in the Republic of China to an embassy in 1966. The vice president also noted that Professor Peter K.H. Chiang (江國雄), who was on hand, and Professor Fang-Chung Chen (陳方中) co-published a book entitled History of the Sino-Vatican Diplomatic Relations中梵外交關係史》. The book mentions that Pope Paul VI continued a dialogue with China even as he upgraded relations with the Republic of China (Taiwan). In 1969, the pope also elevated then-archbishop and Rector of Fu Jen Catholic University, Paul Cardinal Yü Pin (于斌), to cardinal. The pope also put Paul Cardinal Yü Pin's name first on the consecration list, which was significant because it signaled his encouragement of the Catholic Church in Taiwan, affirming its pastoral work and preaching of the Gospel.

Vice President Chen pointed out that Pope Francis firmly believes, just as Pope Paul VI did, in resolving problems through goodwill and dialogue. That is why the Vatican, after many years of negotiations with China, on September 22 signed a provisional agreement with China regarding the appointment of bishops. News releases and statements issued by the Vatican emphasize that the purpose of this provisional agreement is "only to attain the Church's specific spiritual and pastoral aims, namely, to support and advance the preaching of the Gospel." Future bishops in China will ultimately be determined by the pope. This is a first step toward harmony and unity between the Catholic Church in China and the Universal Church. The agreement is not diplomatic in nature, nor does it affect diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Vatican. We also hope that this represents a first step toward freedom of religion in China, said the vice president, who urged his listeners not to worry about that agreement too much or read too much into it.

Vice President Chen pointed out that Taiwan and the Vatican have a shared commitment to democracy, human rights, and freedom of religion. As a model of religious freedom and harmony, Taiwan will continue to enhance substantive exchanges with the Vatican, and deepen its partnership with the Vatican to promote peace, humanitarian, and charitable works. He further expressed hope that the distinguished guests at the banquet will continue lend the government their full support, and show appreciation for the hard work of Taiwan's diplomats.

In closing, Vice President Chen raised a toast to the success of Pope Francis and President Tsai, and wished the assembled guests the best of good health and good fortune.

Banquet attendees included Deputy Foreign Minister Kelly Wu-Chiao Hsieh (謝武樵), Bishop Thomas An-zu Chung of the Diocese of Chiayi, ROC Ambassador to the Holy See Matthew S.M. Lee, ROC Representative to Italy Lee Sing-Ying (李新穎), and staff of the ROC embassies in the Holy See and Italy and their family members.

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