May 10, 2018 / 8:22 PM / 4 months ago

Taipei archbishop says will invite pope to visit Taiwan

ROME (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic archbishop of Taiwan said on Thursday that he will invite Pope Francis to visit the country for a Church congress next year, a trip that would likely infuriate China.

Pope Francis speaks during his pastoral visit in Loppiano, central Italy, May 10, 2018. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi

“No pope has ever landed in Taiwan,” Archbishop John Hung said in remarks at a reception at Taiwan’s embassy to the Vatican.

He later told Reuters he liked to “dream the impossible” and that he would extend the invitation next week when he and other bishops from Taiwan meet the pope.

Hung said he felt the pope should visit the island because the people there “have suffered”.

China claims Taiwan as its own and considers the self-ruled island a wayward province. The island has about 300,000 Catholics.

The Vatican is one of only 19 states that still recognize Taiwan, officially known as the Republic of China. Beijing, which has no diplomatic relations with the Vatican, insists that if countries want relations with it they must break ties with Taiwan.

Last month the Dominican Republic became the latest country to switch from Taiwan to Beijing.

The Vatican and Beijing have been holding talks on the naming of bishops in China, whose Catholics are divided between an “underground” Church loyal to the pope and a government-backed Church.

The talks appear to have stalled recently.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen has previously invited the pope to visit.

Reporting By Philip Pullella, Editing by William Maclean

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