Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen (right) meets foreign clergy and representatives from Taiwan's Chinese Regional Bishops' Conference on Oct. 31. (Photo: Office of the President)
Taiwan’s president has praised foreign missionaries and local clergy for their long service in helping the disadvantaged on the island.
At a meeting with 80 church members including priests, nuns, foreign missionaries and representatives of local churches, President Tsai Ing-wen thanked the group for taking care of the Taiwanese people, saying it is now Taiwan’s turn to take care of them.
About 170 foreign missionaries among the senior clergy in Taiwan have received special benefits, allowances and long-term care services under the Mackay Program, Tsai told the Oct. 31 meeting.
Named after Dr. George Leslie Mackay, a Canadian Presbyterian missionary who helped build hospitals and schools and served the island’s poor and marginalized in the late 19th century, the program established in 2011 aims to provide long-term care for foreigners in Taiwan.
“Many foreign missionaries who have served long stints in Taiwan now regard Taiwan as their homeland,” said Tsai, adding that they are "truly Taiwanese."
She said the Nationality Act amended in 2016 provides a channel for senior foreign missionaries who wish to become Taiwanese citizens to do so.
Foreign missionaries who began arriving Taiwan in the 19th century have contributed in founding schools, hospitals and many important social welfare organizations, spending the best years of their lives helping Taiwanese society develop, said Tsai.
Four missionaries — French Father Yves Moal, Swiss Father Jean-Claude Fournier, German Sister Maryta Laumann and Sister Teresita Enriques from the Philippines — have received Taiwanese national identity cards.
They were praised for their respective services for the disabled, the indigenous, the textile industry and helping dementia patients.
In this Chinese-language video, President Tsai Ing-wen meets church members and foreign missionaries.
“You are a driving force that has continuously helped make a better Taiwan.” Tsai said.
The meeting, also attended by Vice President Chen Jianen, a Catholic, was seen as an exceptional occasion in terms of the group size and the number of national clergy and church members.
Chen Lei-Shih, chairman of the National Council of the Lay Apostolate, the Catholic National Association, was invited for the first time to the Presidential Palace and greeted by Tsai.
James Li, a Catholic from Taipei, told ucanews on Nov. 6 that while he was happy to see the government affirming the contribution of missionaries and the Church to society, he was concerned about the timing and the event’s implication for voting in the presidential election next year.
He said President Tsai’s strong stance on legitimizing same-sex marriage was contrary to the Church's positon. "She did not really listen to the voice of the Church. How important is the Church’s voice for her?" he asked.
Others at the meeting included Archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan, president of the Chinese Regional Bishops’ Conference (CRBC), and Father Otfried Chan, secretary-general of the CRBC.