Vatican `seeks ties with China'

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The Independent Online
THE VATICAN appears to be moving towards re-establishing ties with China, a move aimed at ending decades of isolation and persecution of the Catholic church there. A report in yesterday's Taiwan-based United Daily News states that the Vatican is on the verge of announcing the establishment of diplomatic ties with China, which were severed in 1957.

Although the Catholic church in China encounters considerable official opposition and faces a government-sponsored rival church that does not acknowledge the authority of the Vatican, both sides have been feeling their way towards reconciliation for some time.

If it comes to fruition, as this report suggests, it will be a body blow to Taiwan. Last month Jason Hu, the Taiwanese foreign minister, rushed to the Vatican for talks with Rome's most senior foreign affairs officials. He sought assurances that ties with his country would not be broken.

Although Mr Hu put a brave face on the meeting, the Vatican was non-committal in announcing its outcome. Taiwan retains diplomatic ties with 28 countries, most of which are tiny. In Europe it recently established relations with Macedonia but the Vatican is its only other European ally.

Catholic sources in Hong Kong and the United States say the Catholic Church in China is growing and now has six to ten million members.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is also trying to establish better relations with Vietnam, Asia's second biggest communist country. There are about eight million Catholics in Vietnam, making it the largest Asian Catholic community aside from the Philippines.