10/31/2005, 00.00
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Beijing should open talks with the Vatican before asking it to cut ties with Taiwan, says Bishop Zen

The Hong Kong prelate comments a statement made by Cardinal Sodano and calls Beijing's demand the Holy See break off diplomatic ties with Taiwan ahead of talks unreasonable.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews/SCMP) – Mgr Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop of Hong Kong, does not believe the Vatican ought to break ties with Taiwan before talks with Beijing begin on normalising Sino-Vatican relations.

"It is unreasonable to request the Vatican to first estrange from Taiwan before starting the negotiations," the Bishop said.

Still, the head of Hong Kong's Catholic Church was upbeat on the progress of relations.

"There are some hurdles that may need to be overcome," he noted, "especially after the death of the late Pope John Paul and the election of the new Pope Benedict," but according to him it was obvious that opportunities for the Catholic Church on the mainland were arising.

The Vatican Secretary of State Card Angelo Sodano said last week that the Holy See was ready to return to its nunciature in Beijing and break its ties with Taiwan, provided the central government respected religious freedom.

"When other states ended their relations with Taiwan they moved immediately to Beijing. Why can't the Holy See, if it ends its contacts with Taiwan, go immediately to Beijing?" he asked.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan responded by reiterating China's view that the Holy See must sever ties with Taiwan.

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