China, Catholic Church at a crossroads
The Taiwanese press reported on Chen Shui-bian’s presence at the funeral of pope John Paul II: “The Holy See used an alphabetical order of country names for seating arrangements, and they used ‘Taiwan’ to seat President Chen Shui-bian. Chen’s seat was therefore placed on the right side of the church in the first row and in the fourth seat. And since no translators or bodyguards were provided, Chen and other leaders had a bit of difficulty speaking with one another” (Dongsen Xinwen, April 8, “President Chen arrives at Vatican City to mourn”).
This item illustrates two serious brush-offs that the Vatican, the most ancient and careful diplomacy in the world, gave Chen: 1) It didn’t give him the right to represent China, but only his island, Taiwan; and 2) it did not help Chen in his attempt to rub shoulders with other state leaders, which was probably his main reason for traveling to Rome.