What the Holy Don't See: A Catholic Defense of Vatican-Taiwan Relations

By: Channing Lee

April 28, 2022

Spring 2022 Student Symposium: REWA Minors

This paper aims to address the Vatican’s recent consideration of switching official recognition from the Republic of China (Taiwan) to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). As the leader of a global faith, and one of Taiwan’s last remaining allies, the Vatican plays an important role in shaping international relations through a moral lens, specifically what it means to honor human dignity. The paper will begin with an overview of Holy See-Taiwan relations from 1942, when the two established diplomatic relations, until the present, explaining how the Vatican has held on to its relationship with Taipei despite Beijing’s ascent on the world stage. Next, it will explore some reasons why the Vatican might consider changing its diplomatic ties to the PRC, especially in the context of China’s enormous population. The paper will then apply Catholic doctrine, Catholic social thought, and papal encyclicals such as Pope John XXIII’s Pacem in Terris to argue why the Holy See must maintain relations with Taiwan in order to adhere to its principles on human dignity and rights. A case study comparison of the Vatican’s response–or lack thereof–to human rights abuses in Hong Kong will follow. Finally, the paper will discuss the implications of this analysis for Vatican-Taiwan relations moving forward.


黃雅詩.「中國逼梵蒂岡與台灣斷交 教廷要求先設北京使館再談Central News Agency. October 25, 2021.

Pius XII. “Address of His Holiness Pius XII to the New Minister of China.” Speech, February 16, 1947. The Vatican Archives.

Paul Russell. “Homily at the Holy Mass of Thanksgiving on the occasion of the Seventieth Anniversary of the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations between the Holy See and the Republic of China.” Taipei, Taiwan, October 20, 2012.

John XXIII. Pacem in Terris [Encyclical Letter on Establishing Universal Peace in Truth, Justice, Charity, and Liberty]. April 11, 1963.

Andrea Gagliarducci. “Are Diplomatic Relations Between the Vatican and Beijing on the Horizon?Catholic News Service. February 11, 2022.

Seven Themes of Catholic Social Teaching,” United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB Communications Publication No. 5-315 (2005).

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