Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen recently wrote a letter to Pope Francis, emphasizing the importance of maintaining peace with China and a commitment to Taiwan’s sovereign democracy. In her letter, Tsai highlighted the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war in bringing attention to the value of peace. She stated, “Preserving regional security has become a key consensus shared by national leaders.”

Tsai’s letter was in response to Pope Francis’ message for the 2023 World Day of Peace, which is an annual letter sent to all foreign governments around the world to mark the new year. In her letter, Tsai referred to a speech she gave in October 2022, where she highlighted the importance of peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait for the development of cross-strait relations, and emphasized that armed confrontation is not an option.

Vatican City is currently the only country in Europe that recognizes Taiwan as a sovereign country. Taiwan, an island located less than 110 miles off the coast of China, has a population of over 23 million people and has maintained a vibrant democracy with robust civil liberties despite pressure from Beijing regarding Taiwan’s status. The Holy See has had formal diplomatic relations with Taiwan since 1922.

Currently, only 14 states worldwide have full diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including Guatemala, Haiti, and Paraguay. The Chinese Communist Party government views Taiwan as a rebel province and has pressured countries to cut diplomatic ties with the island. Despite concerns over the renewal of the Vatican-China deal and its impact on the Holy See’s diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, a spokesperson for Taiwan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated in 2020 that they received assurances from the Vatican regarding the renewal of the deal.

Tsai, the first female president of Taiwan, acknowledged the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Taiwan and the Holy See in her letter, and expressed her aspiration for Taiwan to serve as a light in the world and to work closely with the Holy See to create a society of greater justice and peace for humanity. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it,” she said.

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