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Taiwan's diplomatic ties with Holy See still solid: official

TAIPEI -- The Republic of China maintains a friendly, close relationship with its diplomatic ally, the Holy See, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Monday in response to reports that Pope Francis hopes to develop friendly ties with China.

“Based on the solid relationship, we will continue to enhance our ties with the Holy See,” said ministry spokeswoman Anna Kao.

Kao's remarks came in response to reports that quoted the pope as saying in an interview with an Italian newspaper that he exchanged letters with Chinese President Xi Jinping last March, just days after he was elected pope.

“We are close to China,” Pope Francis said in the interview with Corriere della Sera, which was published earlier this month, the reports said. The pope said he sent a letter to Xi and that Xi also replied to him. “There are relations,” he was quoted as saying in thereports.

China and the Holy See have been at odds over the Vatican's diplomatic ties with Taiwan, which China considers a breakaway province.

Citing an example of the strong relationship between Taiwan and the Holy See, Kao said President Ma Ying-jeou attended the pope's inaugural Mass in St. Peter's Square last March, making him the first ROC president to attend a papal inaugural mass in more than 70 years, she added.

The Holy See is the ROC's only diplomatic ally in Europe. The two sides established diplomatic ties in 1942.

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