Taipei, Oct 15 (IANS) Taiwan has invited Pope Francis to visit the island in an attempt to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Vatican following the latter’s landmark agreement with China over the appointment of bishops.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen said on Monday that Vice-President Chen Chien-jen, who is in the Vatican to attend the canonization of various saints, officially invited the Pope, Efe news reported.
In a message on her Facebook page, the leader said the invitation was made on behalf of her and the people of Taiwan, which has around 300,000 Catholics, approximately 1.5 per cent of its population.
Tsai also said that her government would take active and concrete measures to support the Pope’s efforts to spread the values of freedom, justice and peace throughout the world.
The invitation followed an agreement on September 22 between the Vatican and China, who haven’t had diplomatic relations since 1951, on the appointment of bishops, a bone of contention between the two sides.
Taiwan fears that the pact with China may jeopardize Taipei’s relations with the Vatican — its only ally in Europe — as Beijing has been exerting pressure on countries to break off ties with Taiwan.
China poached five of Taiwan’s diplomatic allies in just over a year, the report said.