Taiwan split from China in 1949 after the civil war that brought the communists to power, and the Vatican went with it.
 
"Holy See's position is quite clear and is known to the Taiwanese government," Madtha said. "The Holy See would maintain its delegate in Taipei. The Holy See will not abandon Taiwan."
 
David Wang, a spokesman for Taipei's foreign affairs ministry, said Taiwan officials know about the Vatican's hopes for China, but will not comment on anything presumptive.
 
There are about 10 million Roman Catholics 
in China and 300,000 in Taiwan
China sees Taiwan as part of its territory and is unlikely to let the Vatican or any government maintain ties with Taiwan while pursuing diplomatic relations in Beijing.
 
Taiwan officials believe China is trying to isolate their island by persuading Taiwan's 24 remaining diplomatic allies to switch allegiance, joining 170 countries that already recognise Beijing over Taipei.
 
About 10 million Roman Catholics live in China, but many are cut off from the Vatican, either worshipping underground or in government-sanctioned churches that do not recognise Rome's authority.
 
The Vatican has indicated to Taiwan, which is home to about 300,000 Catholics, it would like to help those "lost sheep", Wang said.
 
Vatican-China relations dipped last week, when Pope Benedict XVI criticised China for consecrating a bishop without Vatican permission, sparking outrage from Beijing.