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Updated: August 30, 2001 05:00 PM GMT
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A shortage of Chinese-speaking priests in a Malaysian diocese has led a young priest of Indian origin to study Mandarin in Taiwan.

Diocesan Father Henry Rajoo of Penang left for Taiwan Aug. 18. Diocesan sources say there is a shortage of Chinese-speaking priests in Penang which has 28 parishes but only six or seven Chinese-speaking priests.

On his return, Father Rajoo, 32, is expected to celebrate Mass, deliver homilies and cater to the needs of Chinese-speaking parishioners in his newly acquired language.

The priest, who was ordained last January, was assistant parish priest of Taiping, some 220 kilometers northwest of Kuala Lumpur, before leaving for Taiwan Aug. 18.

Some parishioners were surprise at Father Rajoo´s latest task. How can an Indian priest, with minimal knowledge of Mandarin or any Chinese dialect, agree to be sent to Taiwan for two years to study Mandarin, they asked.

However, Father Rajoo said he was motivated to learn Mandarin when he celebrated Mass for parishioners at Kuala Sepetang, a Chinese fishing village near Taiping. "They could not understand my Malay. They said it is too high standard," the young priest said, adding, "Chinese is the need now."

According to Father Rajoo, he was interested in languages from youth but did not have the opportunity to study. He expressed his wish in the seminary and even attended Chinese classes "but I couldn´t cope with it because I was taking Tamil and English language as well," he recalled.

The priest explained that when in Taiwan, he will also learn Chinese culture. "It goes with the language -- I´m going full swing into it," he said.

"This is totally for the service of the Church -- knowing the need and fulfilling the need," he stressed.

"My confidence comes firstly from my perseverance," he said, recalling how European missioners first worked in Malaysia.

"They came and learned the local languages -- Chinese, Tamil, Malay. "If they can do it coming from a culture so different from ours, why not me? They give me a lot of motivation," he said.


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