“I am in complete accord with your statement that walking the path of peace requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbors or against God's creation,” Tsai said.
The president of Taiwan then detailed a list of China’s actions that she said constitute “abuses of power,” describing violence toward Hong Kong protesters, the recent controversy over an NBA coach voicing criticism of the Communist regime, and persecution of religious believers seeking to follow their conscience:
“Authorities dispatching armed police to fire tear gas and suppress and arrest people expressing the wish to pursue democracy and human rights; internet celebrities or athletes being threatened with termination of contracts or bans from competitions when they speak up in defense of freedom of speech; religious practitioners facing detention and persecution by public security officers when they, following their conscience, refuse to be coerced into signing documents to join an organization that violates their religious doctrines — all these constitute what you refer to in your message as abuses of power and reflect the notion of diversity as an obstacle. Indeed, they only serve to fuel conflict.”
Tsai quoted directly from Pope Francis’ peace message, which states: “War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle.”
She also responded to the pope’s call to care for our common home in his encyclical Laudato Si by highlighting the Taiwanese government’s efforts to “transform Taiwan into a green energy development hub in Asia” through multiple green energy and sustainable water initiatives.
Taiwan’s first female president, Tsai was reelected on Jan. 11 with a campaign pledge to protect Taiwan’s sovereignty from Chinese control, as concerns grew among Taiwanese watching the Hong Kong protests in 2019.
The Chinese state media attempted to sway Taiwan’s presidential election with online disinformation campaigns attacking Tsai. China’s authoritarian leader, Xi Jinping, has threatened Taiwan, saying in 2019 that Chinese Communist Party reserves the right to use force to bring the democratic island under control.
The split between China and Taiwan dates back to 1949, following the communist military success in China’s civil war that led Chiang Kai-shek and the nationalist forces to retreat to the island. Taiwan is officially known as the Republic of China, while the government on the mainland is the People’s Republic of China.
“I strongly identify with Your Holiness's magnanimous vision and appeal to all of humanity to renounce the desire to dominate others, show mutual respect, and learn to see one another as sons and daughters of God and as brothers and sisters, so as to break the spiral of vengeance,” Taiwan’s president wrote to Pope Francis.
“Many of the international conflicts today can be attributed to the desire to dominate others. When one party tries to impose its will on another, genuine dialogue becomes impossible,” she said.
The Holy See has recognized the Taiwanese government, the Republic of China, since 1942, and does not currently have formal diplomatic relations with the government of the People’s Republic of China, which consolidated control of the mainland at the conclusion of a civil war in 1949.
In 2018, Beijing and Vatican officials signed a provisional agreement on bishop appointments. The China-Vatican deal was intended to unify the underground Church and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
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China has previously demanded that other countries end diplomatic recognition of Taiwan -- which it regards as a rebel province, not as a sovereign nation -- as a price for increased economic or political cooperation.
Vatican City is the only remaining country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a country. However, the nunciature in Taipei has not been led by a nuncio since Oct. 25, 1971, when the United Nations ceased to recognize the Taipei-based government as the government of China.
Taiwan’s government has repeatedly invited Pope Francis to visit Taiwan both before and after the Holy See’s provisional deal with China.
Tsai expressed her hope for “the continued growth of the Catholic Church” and said that the virtue of hope leads toward peace and overcoming adversity.
“I firmly believe that as long as people in Taiwan and around the world embrace hope and remain open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion and manipulation, true peace can be achieved,” Tsai wrote.
Pope Francis sent new year’s greetings to Asian nations during his Wednesday audience Jan. 22. Lunar New Year is the biggest annual holiday in East Asia in which millions travel to celebrate with family.