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President Chen Meets with Cardinal Jan Schotte

Taipei, Jan. 29 (CNA) Republic of China President Chen Shui-bian met Monday with Cardinal Jan Schotte, secretary general of the World Bishop Conference of the Holy See.

President Chen told the cardinal that he hopes the ROC and the Vatican will strengthen their cooperative relationship in the fields of human rights protection and religious freedom.

During the meeting, the ROC head of state also extended an invitation to Pope John Paul II to visit the Republic of China at a convenient time. The Vatican is one of the ROC's most important allies, and the government and people of the ROC treasure their friendly relations between the two countries, Chen said, adding that the Pope is welcome to visit Taiwan and promulgate the Catholic gospel here.

President Chen also expressed his gratitude to the Catholic church in Taiwan for its longtime contributions to the island's education, medical care and charitable activities. In addition to the more than 50 schools and 15 hospitals around the island built by the Catholic church, Catholic charitable organizations have served in every corner of Taiwan, Chen noted. "I am moved by their enthusiastic and generous contributions," he said, adding that the Pope was the inspiration for all these deeds.

President Chen pointed out that the basic difference between Taiwan and mainland China is that the government of Taiwan loves peace and upholds freedom, especially religious freedom and human rights protection; while mainland China neglects human rights. Therefore, the ROC and the Vatican should strengthen their cooperation, and promote religious freedom and human rights protection everywhere, Chen said.

Cardinal Schotte, speaking on behalf of Pope John Paul II, paid his regards and expressed the Vatican's concern for the government and people of the Republic of China. Cardinal Schotte spoke highly of the ROC's efforts to protect human rights, adding Taiwan understands that religious freedom is a basic human right. He added that he believes relations between the Vatican and the ROC will be further cemented on the established basis.

Cardinal Schotte called on President Chen in the company of Vice Foreign Minister Chiou Rong-nan, Cardinal-bishop Paul Shan and Archbishop Di Kan.

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