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[Bowen News Service Exclusive] Rumors are again circulating that the Vatican is preparing to break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan and recognize Beijing. This news service has learned that the Vatican may establish diplomatic relations with Beijing as early as the end of this year. This news service has contacted Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs seeking confirmation. The civil servant who received the query anxiously replied asking where the journalist had learned this information. Taiwan’s Vatican embassy decline to comment on the news. The Vatican Foreign Affairs Office said that it doesn’t accept telephone interviews.
China-Vatican relations have stalled over the issue of appointing bishops. But after the new Pope Francis assumed office, he’s made repeated advances to Beijing. In March of last year Pope Francis surprisingly revealed that he’d received a reply from China’s president Xi Jinping. Although it was rumored that Beijing and the Vatican had previously been negotiating, it was denied by the Holy See. But this was seen as a signal that relations between the two sides were warming.
In September last year it was reported that there was hope for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the PRC and the Vatican. But in response to a reporter’s question, an official in the office of the Vatican’s Secretary for External Relations Jean Louis Tauran said, “We can’t make any comment on this story, you’ll have to rely on the Vatican’s official press release. ”
In response to the Vatican’s sincere efforts to establish diplomatic relations, Beijing has adopted a hard bargaining stance. Its precondition for the Holy See is agreement to unified Beijing management of the Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and Mainland parishes.
Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Lin Yung-lo (David Lin) said last year that Taiwan and the Vatican have a unique relationship. The Vatican reemphasized its commitment to religious freedom, and confirmed that the obstacle to diplomatic relations isn’t really the appointment of bishops. Even if Pope Francis got his wish of visiting China, his focus would still be on whether China implements real religious freedom. David Lin believes that at this stage that’s still out of reach.
The Vatican broke off diplomatic relations with the PRC in 1951, and has had no formal diplomatic relations with Beijing since. Taiwan presently has diplomatic relations with 22 countries. The Vatican is the only one in Europe. China has approximately 15 million Catholics, half of whom worship in underground churches. Previously, the three major obstacles to Sino-Vatican relations were: the Taiwan problem, i.e. the fact that the Vatican still has diplomatic relations with Taiwan; the appointment of bishops; and the Vatican’s position on canonization. However, in recent years Beijing has been having private meetings with representatives of the Vatican and has made progress in improving the previously cold relationship.