Taiwan has invited the Pope to visit the self-ruled island, just weeks after China and the Vatican reached a landmark agreement on the appointment of bishops on the mainland.
Taiwan’s Vice President Chen Chien-jen met the Pope on Sunday and invited him to visit, the president’s office said in a statement. Chen added the pope said he would pray for Taiwan, but did not give any date for the proposed visit.
China claims Taiwan as its own and the island has diplomatic relations with only 17 countries around the world, mostly in Central America and the Pacific. The Vatican is Taiwan’s last diplomatic ally in Europe.
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Last month’s deal with China gives the Holy See a say over the appointment of bishops, although both sides have called the agreement “provisional”.
Chen stressed the agreement between the Vatican and China did not involve a “diplomatic element” or affect the friendship between Taiwan and the Vatican.
“We urge everyone not to excessively interpret and worry about this [deal],” the statement quoted Chen as saying.
Although the Vatican has said the September 22 deal is not political, some officials in Taiwan worry it could be a prelude to establishing diplomatic ties with Beijing.
Taipei has accused China, which considers the island a breakaway province, of using dollar diplomacy and bullying to lure away its allies, charges Beijing has denied.
This year, former allies El Salvador, Burkina Faso, and the Dominican Republic became the latest to switch ties from Taipei to Beijing.