Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun does not believe the Vatican will break ties with Taiwan before talks with the central government begin on normalising relations. 'It is unreasonable to request the Vatican to first estrange from Taiwan before starting the negotiations,' said Bishop Zen, who returned last week from a world meeting of bishops in Rome. 'A talk should come first.' The head of Hong Kong's Catholic church was upbeat on the progression of relations. 'There are some hurdles that may need to be overcome, especially after the death of the late Pope John Paul and the ordainment of the new Pope Benedict,' he said, but added it was obvious that new opportunities for the Catholic church on the mainland were arising. The Vatican's top diplomat, Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano, last week said that the Vatican was always ready to return its embassy to Beijing and break its ties with Taiwan, provided the central government respected religious freedom. 'When other states ended their relations with Taiwan they moved immediately to Beijing. Why can't the Holy See, if it ends its contacts with Taiwan, go immediately to Beijing?' he asked. Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan responded by repeating the Holy See must sever ties with Taiwan.