1998-04-20 00:00:00

The Catholic bishops´ conference in Taiwan has agreed to change its official Chinese name so as to better represent the reality of the Taiwan Church, following its recent biannual meeting.

Following instructions from the Vatican Secretariat of State to retain the word "regional," the current English title, the "Chinese Regional Bishops´ Conference," remains unchanged.

However, the name in Chinese has been modified from the "Chinese Bishops´ Conference" (CBC) to "Taiwan Regional Catholic Bishops´ Conference." It took effect immediately after the bishops´ March 30-April 1 meeting.

The Chinese name is "an acceptable choice," though some laypeople simply wanted it to be called the Catholic Bishops´ Conference of Taiwan, Bishop Peter Liu Chen-chung of Chiayi told UCA News April 15.

Calling it the bishops´ conference of Taiwan would likely raise a sensitive political issue -- the independence of Taiwan -- which the Church has always tried to avoid, Bishop Liu explained.

Whereas, calling itself a regional bishops´ conference will leave room for the Church in mainland China to restore communion with the universal Church in the future, he stressed.

In the past, the Taiwan Church saw itself as the "Chinese Catholic bishops´ conference," but the Chinese language equivalent of that name have also been adopted by the bishops´ conferences of both the "underground" and the government-sanctioned Churches in mainland China.

"Taiwan is just a part of China so it is inappropriate to call it the Chinese Catholic Bishops´ Conference," Bishop Andrew Tsien Tchew-choenn of Hualien told UCA News April 15.

Most older bishops, who fled mainland China in the late 1940s and set up the CBC in 1967, have either died or retired, and "we cannot say we represent the whole of China," Bishop Joseph Cheng Tsai-fa of Tainan added.

A large number of the older generation came from mainland China during the 1945-1949 civil war, and some still dream of returning to the homeland.

However, a growing sense of being Taiwanese, especially among the locally born younger generation, and politicians´ call for a separate identity and Taiwanese independence, have prompted a sense of separation from the mainland, a controversial issue on the island.

In a survey by the conference at the end of 1997, over half of the 260 lay, priest and religious respondents in all dioceses opted for the new name.

"We cannot say the survey is sufficiently representative, but there have been no complaints from laypeople about the decision," Bishop Cheng said.

In other matters, the bishops agreed to apply for the status of a legal corporation for the conference to get tax exemption for its benefactors.

They also decided to hold Confirmation ceremonies in each diocese on May 31, and an islandwide celebration for the Feast of Christ the King.

Other topics discussed at the meeting, held at the Hsinchu diocesan pastoral center, southwest of Taipei, were a request to the Synod for Asia for the early canonization of the Blessed Chinese Martyrs, the Church in mainland China, religious freedom in Asian countries, and family and aboriginal issues.


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