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UCA News

UNESCO honor a mixed blessing for Macau

Updated: March 17, 2010 10:30 AM GMT
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The Macau diocesan curia building that houses the archives
The Macau diocesan curia building that houses the archives
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MACAU (UCAN) -- Bishop Jose Lai Hung-seng of Macau has expressed concerns over UNESCO assigning ancient books at the St. Joseph’s Seminary and archives of the Diocesan Chancery to its Memory of the World Program for the Asia-Pacific region.

The bishop told UCA News that he has “mixed feelings” because expertise and human resources are needed to conserve these historical archives.

However, this is the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s second such honor for local Catholic resources since several churches and ruins were included in the “Historical Center of Macau” in the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2005.

“I am happy as it further enhances the Church’s visibility,” the 64-year-old bishop said, adding that he would like to make the diocesan archives from the 16th to 19th centuries public to facilitate more historical and academic research.

At the same time he is also worried about conservation of Church documents, which “needs special knowledge and a serious attitude,” he said.

The Church has limited manpower to sort through the archives, he said, expressing hope that the government would arrange for specialists to help in the task.

Macau, a Portuguese colony for five centuries until it reverted to China in 1999, had been a gateway for foreign missioners and traders entering mainland China for centuries.

First Catholic diocese in Far East

Macau diocese was created in 1576 as the first Catholic diocese in the Far East, covering a vast region from Japan to Southeast Asia. More than 100 dioceses have been split from it since then.

Today, the diocese only covers the 29.2-square-kilometer Macau Special Administrative Region with about 20,000 Catholics in six parishes and three sub-parishes.

The archived documents are a record of the history of the 434-year-old diocese, including the “many footprints of missionaries,” serving as a witness of Macau’s role as a bridge between Eastern and Western cultures.

The official inscription of these documents in the Memory of the World Program was accepted during the Fourth General Meeting of the UNESCO Memory of the World Committee for Asia/Pacific (MOWCAP).

The meeting was convened in Macau from March 8-9 and attended by 16 countries and regions including Australia, Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The meeting was co-hosted by UNESCO, the Macau Foundation and the Macau Documentation and Information Society. The latter has been gathering information about the Catholic archives since a few years ago.

“Taking advantage of the MOWCAP meeting here, the Information Society has asked for the diocese’s permission and cooperation to obtain detailed information for submission and briefing during the meeting,” Bishop Lai said.

Apart from Macau’s Catholic archives, two ancient Chinese medical texts from mainland China and various documents from Fiji, Mongolia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Vietnam were included in the Memory of the World program.

MA09146/1593 March 17, 2010 51 EM-lines (471 words)

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