Island could hold exhibition next year, spoiling city's chance of playing a leading role in Holy See's ties with the mainland As Hong Kong officials dither over how and when to hold an exhibition of Vatican art, Taiwan appears to have beaten the city to the punch with plans for a display of the Christian artefacts, probably next year. News of the exhibition, planned by Taiwan's Fu Jen Catholic University, came as an academic warned that Hong Kong needed to act quickly or it would lose its opportunity to help bridge the Sino-Vatican divide through cultural exchanges. Vatican Museums director Francesco Buranelli confirmed he received an invitation from the university to organise an exhibition of Christian art in Taiwan, probably next year. Last week, the South China Morning Post reported the Hong Kong government had been slow to follow up on a 2003 agreement between Secretary for Home Affairs Patrick Ho Chi-ping and the Vatican to hold an art exhibition. It is understood that besides political sensitivity - Beijing has yet to establish diplomatic relations with the Holy See, which recognises Taipei - the Hong Kong government was concerned about logistical difficulties and the high cost of holding such an event. Dr Buranelli, who expressed a hope that cultural exchanges would help resolve political differences, said he was waiting for a reply from the Hong Kong government to finalise the details of an exhibition in the city. 'I hope the Hong Kong government will write to me to start the work. When we have an agreement on the theme of the exhibits, we can then choose the artworks,' he said. Dr Buranelli also sought to make clear that there were no plans for Pope Benedict to officiate at the exhibition, because no papal visit was being planned despite the pontiff's wish to visit China. Asked whether the world's leading treasure house would approach Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen - who is a devout Catholic and art lover - to speed up the plan, Dr Buranelli said: 'We would appreciate all the help from the government.' But Mr Tsang's office said the decision had to be made by Dr Ho. 'Mr Tsang's personal preference will not affect normal government operations,' a spokeswoman said. While stressing the home affairs chief was 'still very interested' in having the Vatican's treasures go on show in Hong Kong, Dr Ho's spokesman said arranging such a complicated event would take time. Meanwhile, Beatrice Leung Kit-fun, a professor of international relations at Taiwan's Wenzao Ursuline College, said Hong Kong's 'sluggishness' will lead to the city losing a golden opportunity to play a bridging role in Sino-Vatican diplomatic negotiations. Professor Leung said Hong Kong should act fast if it wants to hold the exhibition, which would also boost the city's international standing. 'The Hong Kong government will be very unwise if it continues to sit on its own proposal because Taiwan will take advantage very soon,' Professor Leung said. She said in the longer term, Taiwan should maintain regular cultural exchanges with the Vatican Museums, because that would help preserve a link between the island and the Holy See after the Vatican establishes diplomatic ties with Beijing.