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Ex-VP concludes Vatican visit after 3 brief meetings with Pope Francis

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Former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (left) meets with Pope France (right) in the Vatican on Saturday. Photo courtesy of the Republic of China (Taiwan) Embassy to the Holy See

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) Former Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) on Sunday ended a nine-day visit to the Vatican, during which he met briefly with Pope France three times, according to the Taiwan embassy there.

In a Facebook post, the embassy said the three encounters during Chen's short stay of nine days symbolized close relations between Taiwan and the Holy See.

The first meeting was on Sept. 4, before a beatification ceremony for Pope John Paul I, the embassy said.

On that occasion, Chen relayed President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) greetings to the pope and asked him to pray for the people of Taiwan, Chen had said earlier. In response, Pope Francis smiled and told him to pray for world peace, Chen said.

The other two meetings were on Saturday, when Pope Francis honored all members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, including Chen, and met with them and their spouses later in the day, according to the Taiwan embassy.

Also Saturday, Chen met with Vatican officials, priests and nuns at a Mid-Autumn Festival event held by the Taiwan embassy in the Vatican.

During the embassy's celebrations, a cake decorated with the number 80 was cut to mark the 80th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of China (Taiwan) and the Holy See.

Chen was scheduled to depart the Vatican early Sunday after his nine-day visit, which was mainly to attend Pope John Paul I's beatification ceremony as Tsai's special envoy.

While in the Vatican, Chen also visited a calligraphy and painting exhibition, titled "Friendly Taiwan meets Fratelli tutti," which was part of the celebrations to mark 80 years of diplomatic relations between the two sides.

Chen and his wife, Lo Fong-ping (羅鳳蘋), also attended mass at Saint Sophia Cathedral, and visited the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, Caritas Internationalis, and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, to engage with the church and affiliated organizations on issues surrounding Taiwan's participation in international humanitarian efforts.

Established in 1936 by Pope Pius XI, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a scientific academy in Vatican City that aims to promote the progress of the mathematical, physical, and natural sciences and the study of related epistemological problems.

Chen was the second Taiwanese to be named a member of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, after Nobel Prize winner Lee Yuan-tseh (李遠哲), and the first to be appointed to its council.

A devoted Catholic, Chen had previously visited the Vatican for various ceremonies in 2016, and in 2018 and 2019 when he was Taiwan's vice president.

The Holy See is one of 14 sovereign states that maintain full diplomatic ties with Taiwan, and its only European ally, but the Vatican's relations with Beijing have warmed up under the leadership of Pope Francis.

In 2018, Beijing and the Vatican struck a deal to work together on appointing Chinese bishops, which is expected to be extended next month for the second time.

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