The Archbishop of Taipei invites Pope Francis to visit Taiwan next March
by Bernardo Cervellera

The occasion could be the Island’s Eucharistic Congress. Abp. Hung will see the Pope on May 14th on his ad limina visit. "China and Taiwan are two churches, two nations, two different ways of life". On the island there are 300 priests and nuns from mainland China who study at the Catholic University of Furen.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) - The Archbishop of Taipei John Hung Shan-chuan (洪山川), wants Pope Francis to visit the island of Taiwan, where no pontiff has ever set foot. The occasion could be the national Eucharistic Congress to be held on the island next March.

Abp. Hung, who is in Rome for the ad limina visit together with six other Taiwanese bishops, also stressed that it is time to see the Church of Taiwan as a Church in its own right, and the people of Taiwan as a whole, without wanting to absorb it into "one thing with China". He told AsiaNews: "China and Taiwan are two churches, two nations, two different ways of life", even if "we can help and support eachother".

Abp. Hung, a Divine Word Missionary (SVD), 74 years old, will see Pope Francis on May 14th. He expressed these considerations last night in a brief speech that he held at the Embassy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the Holy See, during a reception offered by Ambassador Matthew Lee, in the presence of cardinals, bishops, officials of the Vatican Curia, priests, nuns and journalists. Abp. Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, was also present.

After having said that he wanted to communicate to the Secretariat of State and the Pope the invitation to come to Taiwan, Abp. Hung continued: "The first reason for the invitation is that no pope has ever come to Taiwan. Never, for 70 years. The history of Taiwan for the past 70 years is also a story of suffering. We too [like Christians in China] have always suffered in being considered as a nation to itself or as a part of China ".

In fact, the Church of Taiwan, established by faithful, missionaries, priests and bishops who fled or expelled from the continent, thought of its presence on the island only as a temporary pause, before returning to China, putting mission towards the local population and ethnic groups in second place. Only in the last 20-30 years have Catholics carried out a direct mission among the people of Taiwan. Hence the claim to be "a Church in its own right", with its specific characteristics. At present the Church of Taiwan is made up of 300 thousand local Catholics and almost as many migrant Catholics.

The Archbishop pointed out that this does not stop collaboration, support, the "bridge" function that the Church of Taiwan has towards the Chinese Church: "We receive and we have more than 300 priests and sisters [from the continent] who study at the Catholic University Furen and can use their language [Mandarin Chinese] to study. In this way we support the Church's hope in  China by giving them degrees and diplomas. The Taiwanese Church also hosts international conferences on interreligious dialogue and globalization issues, making an international contribution ".

Abp. Hung said that he has the support of the president of Taiwan, Tsai Ing-wen to extend this invitation.

China considers Taiwan a "rebel island" that must be reabsorbed into unity even with the use of force and threatens to intervene if Taipei dares to declare any form of "independence". For years the Vatican has been engaged in a dialogue with Beijing, which has often called for the breaking of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Taiwan as a condition for continuing dialogue.

(In the picture: Abp. Hung speaks at the reception, in the foreground to the left, Abp .Gallagher)