The seven prelates arrived two days ago. The pastoral challenges are at the centre of the visit: proclaiming the word of God, dialogue, the lack of local clergymen, foreign clergymen, migrants, relations with Catholics in mainland China. Talks between China and the Holy See cast their shadow. For Taiwan’s Ambassador Lee, Pope Francis and the Vatican remain concerned about the fate of the people of Taiwan.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The seven members of the Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference of Taiwan arrived in the Vatican two days ago for their ad limina visit.
The prelates are Taiwan Parish (Taipei) Archbishop Hung Shan-chuan (洪山川), Kaohsiung Archbishop Liu Cheng-chung (劉振忠), Hsinchu Parish Bishop Li Keh-mien (李克勉), Taichung Bishop Su Yao-wen (蘇耀文), Chiayi Bishop Chung An-chu (鍾安住), Tainan Bishop Lin Chi-nan (林吉男) and Hualien Bishop Huang Chao-ming (黃兆明).
The ad limina visit includes praying over the tombs of the apostles, meeting Pope Francis, and visiting various department of the Roman curia.
The bishops will meet with the pontiff next Monday. The delegation prepared two gifts for the Holy Father – a Franz Porcelain product based on an artwork by Giuseppe Castiglione, an Italian missionary who served as a Qing court painter, and a painting by Taiwanese artist Shen Chen (沈禎).
During their visits to the various Vatican dicasteries, the bishops are focusing on their pastoral challenges. These include first and foremost strengthening evangelisation and finding the right balance between proclaiming the word of God and engaging in dialogue Taiwan’s other cultures and the religions.
Other important issues are the shortage in local clergy; the place of foreign priests who need time to learn the language and integrate into the culture of Taiwan; migrant workers, especially mariners; and the fraternal relationship with Catholics in the People’s Republic of China.
For Taiwan’s episcopal leaders, this is the first ad limina visit during the pontificate of Pope Francis. The previous one took place ten years ago with Benedict XVI.
Since Pope Francis took office, relations with mainland China saw a small opening that might lead to renewed diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See in the future.
At present, the Vatican is one of 19 states that still have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, the only one in Europe. Diplomatic relations with Beijing would mean a break with Taiwan.
In view of this, many Catholics on the island have expressed concern over the years about the lack of international support for Taiwan, fearful of a simple takeover of the island by the mainland.
The Vatican has always said that even if it established diplomatic relations with the people’s Republic of China, it would not stop caring for Taiwan’s Catholics, nor break its friendship with the people of Taiwan.
This evening, the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See will hold a reception in honour of the bishops.
Ambassador Matthew Lee stressed that Pope Francis has always been concerned about Taiwan. In fact, over the past year, the pontiff has sent high-ranking Vatican officials to Taiwan to participate in international exchange activities. He has also offered prayers for the people of Taiwan every time there has been a natural disaster, according to Lee as reported by the Central News Agency.
Before leaving Taiwan, the bishops met with President Tsai Ing-wen. Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁), a Catholic, also hosted a dinner to express the government's support for Catholicism and the importance it attaches to Taiwan-Vatican relations.