ARTICLE
Holy See-China-Taiwan: A Cross-Strait Triangle
 
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Tamkang University in Taipei
Publication date: 2020-06-15
 
Stosunki Międzynarodowe – International Relations 2019;55(2):7–23
 
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ABSTRACT
The Holy See, with territorial residence is the Vatican City State, is the only sovereign European entity with diplomatic ties to the Republic of China (ROC), the official name for Taiwan, which presently has fifteen diplomatic allies in total. Holy See – ROC relations were established in 1942. In 1971, when the ROC lost its seat in the UN, the position of the Pontifical representative in Taiwan was downgraded from ambassador to chargé d’affaires, and it has remained so ever after. The Holy See and relations with it are unlike those with other sovereign entities, which are often influenced by geopolitical or commercial considerations. The Apostolic Palace is not interested in receiving foreign aid or signing trade agreements, but in securing religious freedom for the Catholic flock and respecting human rights. This can play in favour of Taiwan when it comes to preserving its formal relations with the Holy See. The People’s Republic of China (PRC) demands that the Vatican conforms to the one-China policy by severing its diplomatic ties with Taiwan, as one of the two conditions for normalizing relations with Beijing. The 2018 Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the Appointment of Bishops marked a turning point in the Sino-Vatican dynamics. Yet, as long as there is no actual religious freedom for the Catholic Church in China, the Holy See remains very reluctant to switch diplomatic allegiance to the PRC. However, the 2018 agreement and the élan of the Papal policy towards China perhaps indicate that, for the Chair of St. Peter, diplomatic relations with Beijing may be ‘well worth a mass’.
ISSN:0209-0961