China and the Vatican have held talks in recent months.
the talks could lead the two sides to re-establish diplomatic ties.
But if this happens, the Vatican would likely have to give up its existing ties with the government in Taiwan.
China watchers say this would be a big loss for Taiwan, which
currently only has official ties with a handful of small, mostly poor
China considers self-ruled Taiwan as part of Chinese territory, not
an independent state with rights to establish foreign relations.
Chinese government bars countries it has diplomatic relations with from
having official ties with Taiwan.
The Roman Catholic Church operates from an independent territory
within the Italian city of Rome. The territory is called Vatican City or
the Holy See. It is recognized internationally as an independent state
with its own government.
China cut off relations with the Vatican in 1951. This was two years
after Communist forces won China’s civil war. The end of the war sent
the Nationalists fleeing to Taiwan, where they set up a government.
Catholics can now legally attend religious services in China.
they can only attend government-approved churches that are not
controlled by the Vatican.
China and the Vatican disagree over who
should have power to appoint bishops.
During talks between the two sides, each has sought more power to choose top church officials.
Over the years, the government has closed religious centers and
imprisoned some clergymen, according to reports from China. About
one-third of the country’s estimated 12 million Catholics worship at underground churches.
Last month, the government’s head of religious affairs met with
leaders of the official Catholic Church in China. He expressed hope that
the Vatican would try to improve relations with the government by
trying to adapt to Chinese society.
Recent reports from Taiwan and Beijing have described Pope Francis as
being interested in establishing relations with China. The Catholic
News Agency reported in October that this had become a “major effort of
But the Vatican’s current ties with Taiwan could hurt its moves to re-establish ties with the government in Beijing.
A possible China-Vatican agreement was set back because of the activities of a bishop who had been excommunicated
by the Catholic Church. The religious leader, who was supported by the
Chinese government, helped fill leadership positions in the church.
Taiwan’s Vice President Chen Chien-jen recently described the
island’s current relations with the Vatican as “normal.” “I think
(Vatican) relations with Taiwan are continuing to develop in a stable
Chen added that he understands that China is also holding talks with
the Vatican on improving ties. He said it is “quite important” for every
Catholic to seek to “have the Vatican’s blessings.”
Some experts see Beijing’s latest efforts to seek closer ties with
the Vatican as a result of worsening relations between Taiwan and China.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen angered Chinese officials after her
election in May by not agreeing to see Taiwan as part of “one China.”
China was also angered when she called Donald Trump after he won the
American presidential election. China watchers saw the call as a sign of
possible closer ties between Taiwan and Trump’s administration.