Taiwan President Renews Invitation to Pope

Island Is Bridge Between Church and Mainland China, Cardinal Says

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TAIPEI, Taiwan, JAN. 31, 2001 (Zenit.org-Fides).- President Chen Shui-bian of Taiwan has repeated his invitation to John Paul II to visit the island.

On Monday, the president met Cardinal Jan Pieter Schotte, secretary-general of the Synod of Bishops in the Vatican, who was completing a six-day visit to Taiwan. Chen voiced the hope for a strengthening of relations between the Holy See and the Republic of China, particularly in regard to the defense of human rights and religious freedom.

The president then repeated his invitation to the Pope, which he first made last July, a few months after his election as president. For both the island´s government and the people, relations with the Vatican are precious, Chen explained, adding that «the Pope is welcome to come here to proclaim the Gospel.»

Chen said he was deeply grateful to the Catholic Church for its service to society in education, health care, and charitable aid. The Church runs 50 schools, 15 hospitals and numerous charitable organizations on the island.

Cardinal Schotte expressed the Pope´s admiration for the people of Taiwan and for the government´s efforts to protect human rights. «Taiwan is aware that religious freedom is a fundamental human right,» he said.

Cardinal Schotte visited Taiwan to participate in a congress on the topic «New Century, New Evangelization,» organized by the local Church in Kaohsiung. The cardinal, who in his youth studied the Chinese language and culture, explained that the Church is «always and totally on mission» to proclaim the faith to non-Christians.

He emphasized the special responsibility of the Church in Taiwan — 300,000 faithful out of a total population of 22 million inhabitants — to proclaim Christ in mainland China and to be a bridge between the Church in China and the universal Church.

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