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ADDRESS OF H.E. MATTHEW S.M. LEE ON THE OCCASION OF THE NATIONAL DAY RECEPTION

Your Eminences, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Buongiorno!

It’s my great honour to welcome all of you to attend our National Day reception. To echo President Tsai’s words, “Today, Taiwan is celebrating both its progress and unshakable belief in the values of democracy, freedom and human rights.” Just to provide a few data points, Taiwan is the 13th freest economy in the world. Per the “Freedom in the World 2018” report, Freedom House rated Taiwan best in political rights, civil liberties, overall freedom and press freedom.

H.E. Archbishop Gallagher made an important speech “Making the United Nations Relevant to All People” in the United Nations General Assembly yesterday. I cannot agree more.

Taiwan is a peace-making country that provides international aid and assistance to refugees, survivors from natural disasters, and those in great need, thus contributing to further stability and prosperity all over the world. Despite our humanitarian efforts and our goal of being a responsible stakeholder in the international arena, unfortunately Communist China remains committed to make Taiwan people irrelevant to the United Nations and to exclude Taiwan from playing a meaningful role both in the United Nation family and in the international communities. As Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu recently said, “Taiwan is the David to China’s Goliath, and we will prevail.” With the assistance of global partners standing up to the rising autocratic authoritarian power, Taiwan will persist, persevere and prevail.

Taiwan values its friendship with the Holy See, with whom we champion the causes of peace and religious freedom around the globe. In May of this year, the Taiwan Bishops made their Ad Limina visit to the Vatican after 10 years and had an audience with Pope Francis. They are grateful for the Holy Father’s expressions of solicitude for Taiwan and dismiss any rumours regarding relations between Taiwan and the Holy See. As officially stated by a high-ranking Vatican official, “The Holy See will keep on being a Taiwan’s companion in the family of people.”

As you probably know, a provisional agreement between the Holy See and Communist China on the appointment of bishops was recently signed. Such an accord, involving only religious and not diplomatic issues, marks the first step taken by the Holy See to address ecclesiastical issues that are long unresolved. It is significant because for the first time the Chinese Communist Party recognizes the Pope as the leader of China’s Catholic communities, thus breaking its old-fashioned dogmas of “non interference in Communist China’s domestic affairs from foreign countries,” and “no affiliate relationship between China’s religions and foreign religions.” We all know that Pope Francis is firmly committed to protecting Catholic faithful suffering in Mainland China. We believe that, with this move, the Vatican aims to uphold its ecclesiastic hierarchy, providing Catholics in Mainland China with the chance to live a normal life of faith, and promoting the religious freedom.

As we celebrate our National Day, I would like to recall His Holiness’ words and ask you to “Accompany our brothers and sisters in Mainland China with fervent prayer and fraternal friendship” along their difficult path of reconciliation and unity, hoping that their sufferings will be alleviated and divisions will be healed as time goes by. As Confucius said in his infinite wisdom: “ The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Lastly, I want to honour the Taiwanese people who deeply cherish human rights, liberties and democratic values, salute our friendship with the Holy See and our shared commitment to long lasting diplomatic ties, and wish for good health, prosperity and happiness for Pope Francis, President Tsai and for all the guests gathered here today. Thank you for joining us!