|Pope John Paul II|
A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman said Thursday that Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian would use the trip to Rome to promote formal independence for the island.
China's main official Catholic organization said it would not send representatives to Rome for the same reason.
Mr. Chen left for Italy Thursday, accompanied by his foreign minister and several Catholic and Muslim religious leaders.
It is the first official trip by a Taiwanese leader to Europe and gives President Chen a rare opportunity to join dozens of world leaders at an international event. The Vatican is one of only a few governments to have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a renegade province.
Some information for this story provided by AP and AFP.