Ma 'looking forward' to first Vatican visit as Taiwan leader
CNATAIPEI--President Ma Ying-jeou said yesterday he is “looking forward” to his first visit to the Vatican as president of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to attend Pope Francis' inaugural Mass.
March 18, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
“The Vatican is Taiwan's only diplomatic ally in Europe and this visit has been named 'Ching Yi,' meaning the celebration of the two countries' solid diplomatic ties over the past 71 years,” Ma said on his Facebook page.
Ma said he is looking forward to the visit, during which he will congratulate Pope Francis in person on his election to the papacy and convey the Taiwanese people's heartfelt gratitude and best wishes to the Holy See.
Ma said he visited the Vatican in a whirlwind trip in 1997 and went back there again in 1999 in his capacity as Taipei mayor.
The president said he is from a Catholic family and that as a child, he frequently went to the Catholic church in Taipei's Wanhua District with his grandmother. When he was in college, he learned French and English from a Catholic priest and nun, he said.
Larry Wang, the R.O.C. ambassador to the Vatican, said Ma is the first R.O.C. president invited to attend a papal investiture. The invitation reflects the close relations between Taiwan and the Vatican and their shared values such as mercy, humanitarianism and peace, Wang said.
He said Taiwan and the Vatican have worked together on many humanitarian missions and that when Taiwan needed help, such as during the devastating earthquake in 1999 and the Typhoon Morakot disaster in 2009, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, respectively, expressed concern and conveyed condolences to those affected.
Pope Benedict XVI also donated US$50,000 to Taiwan in the wake of the Morakot disaster, Wang said.
The R.O.C. and the Vatican have been diplomatic allies since 1942. The two countries maintain close religious, academic and cultural exchanges and mutually recognize higher education diplomas issued by each other's universities and colleges.
In this undated photograph provided by the R.O.C. Embassy in the Holy See, Ambassador Larry Wang (王豫元) poses for a photograph with two members of the Swiss Guard. The embassy said ...