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Korean priest gets Taiwanese citizenship for serving poor

Father Ha Yongguo, 61, has served the poor, sick, elderly and prisoners for about three decades

Korean priest Father Ha Yongguo (center) shows his Taiwanese citizenship certificate alongside Bishop Li Kemian of Hsinchu Diocese and Shen Huihong, deputy mayor of Hsinchu City

Korean priest Father Ha Yongguo (center) shows his Taiwanese citizenship certificate alongside Bishop Li Kemian of Hsinchu Diocese and Shen Huihong, deputy mayor of Hsinchu City. (Photo: Hsinchu City Municipal Office) 

Published: June 18, 2022 03:08 AM GMT

Updated: June 20, 2022 06:17 AM GMT

Taiwan’s government has granted citizenship to a Korean missionary priest who has been involved in social welfare services for the poor, disabled and elderly for three decades.

Father Ha Yongguo, 61, received his citizenship certificate from Shen Huihong, deputy mayor of Hsinchu City in northwest Taiwan, on June 15.

"I am very happy to be a part of Hsinchu City, I have long been a Taiwanese,” Father Ha said while accepting his citizenship documents

Bishop Li Kemian of Hsinchu Diocese, Lin Xiangya, chief executive of the diocese's charity foundation, and Hsinchu City Municipal Office officials attended the ceremony.

The deputy mayor thanked the priest for his selfless care and dedication for disadvantaged groups.

Bishop Li said the diocese is happy to have Father Ha carry out social welfare services.

"The charity foundation is the first social welfare organization that Father Ha has joined. Father Ha has treated disabled friends like his own children. They love being around the priest"

"The Diocese of Hsinchu is committed to benevolent work and upholds the fraternity spirit of the Lord Jesus. Father Ha is very happy to undertake the mission of social welfare in the diocese and actively guide social welfare institutions,” he said.

Over the years, the Ministry of Interior has supported the diocese’s social work activities, the prelate said.

Lin Xiangya hailed the missionary for his love for vulnerable people, especially the disabled.

"The charity foundation is the first social welfare organization that Father Ha has joined. Father Ha has treated disabled friends like his own children. They love being around the priest,” Lin said.

Father Ha arrived in Taiwan from South Korea in 1978 and was ordained a priest in 1988.

He was mostly based in Hsinchu and dedicated himself to social services. He has served as chairman of the Caritas Association and director of the management office, pastoral office and diocesan secretariat.

Since 1988, Father Ha has been involved in education and counseling work at prisons and institutions, leading inmates' rehabilitation with spiritual education courses.

“Even in the face of life’s difficulties and physical defects, they are still full of enthusiasm and warmth. We are all the same and deserve the same treatment"

He was also involved in the establishment of Notre Dame Park, which provides community-based facilities for people with disabilities. He also helped the city’s Renai Qizhi Center, a miniaturized, community-based, overnight accommodation service model for children with disabilities.

The priest reached out to homeless people in Hsinchu City and provided them with food, clothes and other supplies as part of his daily routine. His enthusiasm for the poor encouraged many Catholics to join him in charity work. Father Ha once said: "Caring for the disadvantaged is my life."

Father Ha also assisted elderly people in villages and helped in improving their living conditions through fundraising and medical care.

The missionary said the “kindness in the eyes” of these people greatly moved him. “Even in the face of life’s difficulties and physical defects, they are still full of enthusiasm and warmth,” he said. “We are all the same and deserve the same treatment."

Taiwan, formerly called Formosa, has an estimated 24 million people. Official statistics show about 35 percent of Taiwanese are Buddhists, 33 percent are Taoists, 19 percent are non-religious and 4 percent are Christians.

The Catholic Church has about 300,000 members in one archdiocese and six dioceses, with a significant number of Catholics being refugees from mainland China and migrants from Asian nations including Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia.

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