CRBC News / Bulletin

March 25, 2010
Carlson Huang and Msgr. Paul Russell, Papal Representative
Carlson Huang
Vice Manager & English Program Host
Programming Department

     Thank you very much for inviting me to join you on this program. I'm very grateful for your invitation and happy to be here.

1. The Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican and the Holy See, which is the official title?

     You¡¦re not the first person to ask me this question. The terminology used in the Catholic Church can be confusing. When we say "Holy See", we mean the umbrella organization which includes the entire Catholic Church around the world and the tiny Vatican City State. More specifically, the "Holy See" is the central government of the Catholic Church ¡V popularly known as "the Vatican". Vatican City is the capital of the Vatican City State. We often refer to a country by the name of its capital. In these past months, here in Taipei, there have been several international seminars, entitled: ¡§Taipei-Washington-Beijing Relations.¡¨ Of course, what is being discussed is the relationship between Taiwan, the United States, and China. But the correct title is: the Holy See.

      Now, about the meaning of Apostolic Nunciature: when countries have diplomatic relations, they send ambassadors who live and work in embassies. Ambassador is the person and embassy is the building. In the case of the Holy See, its title for ambassador is "apostolic nuncio". "Apostolic" because the person represents the Pope, who is the successor of the Apostle Peter. "Nuncio" comes from the same Latin word as the verb ¡§to announce¡¨ or ¡§to speak¡¨. The Pope's diplomatic representative is someone who speaks on behalf of the Pope. I would also say that the Pope's diplomatic representative is someone who listens on behalf of the Pope. An apostolic nuncio lives in an Apostolic Nunciature. Nuncio is the person and Nunciature is the building. My title, however, is Charge d'Affaires, which is a more humble ranking than Nuncio, although the responsibility is the same and the work is the same.

2. His Holiness the Pope¡¦s Message for the Celebration of the 43rd World Day of Peace 2010 entitled ¡§If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation. What is the message the Pope hopes to convey?

      Peace is important. Everyone wants peace. No one wants war. Now for many years, since the time of Pope Paul VI, the Catholic Church has celebrated the World Day of Peace on January 1st. Every year, the pope issues an important message on a theme related to peace, showing how peace is the fruit of other things. One of the most famous quotations from Pope Paul VI on this theme is: ¡§If you want peace, work for justice.¡¨ In other words, peace is the fruit of justice. When there is justice, there is peace. This year, Pope Benedict XVI wants to highlight the fact that there is a strong bond between peace and protection of the environment. If you want peace, protect the environment. When the earth¡¦s resources are used incorrectly, there is environmental degradation, people suffer, and then enter into conflict. We see this very clearly in the world. Climate change, desertification, reduced productivity of agricultural land, pollution of rivers and underwater sources, loss of biodiversity, deforestation and other environmental crises bring about economic crises, food crises, water crises, social crises and sow the seeds of conflict and violence. Protecting the environment and building peace go hand-in-hand.

3. Hundreds of charity workers in Catholic organizations from all over Asia gathered in Taiwan last year for the Pontifical Council ¡§CorUnum¡¨ - or ¡§One Heart¡¨. Is that a regular spiritual exercises program?

      Spiritual Exercises were organized for the church's charitable workers by the Pontifical Council Cor Unum from September 7-11, 2009 at Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei. It was a program of prayer and reflection for people serving the poor, the neglected, the needy, and victims of natural disasters. There were 452 participants, including 250 priests, 48 Archbishops and Bishops, and five Cardinals: Cardinal Paul Cordes, Cardinal Paul Shan of Kaohsiung (Taiwan), Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong, Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales of Manila (Philippines) and Cardinal Thelesphore Toppo of Ranchi (India). Participants came from 250 Dioceses in 29 countries: Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Japan, Korea, Lebanon, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Vietnam, and the Vatican City. There were also representatives of United States Catholic Relief Services. The largest number of participants came from India and the Philippines, respectively with 126 and 92 participants. The Pontifical Council Cor Unum has been arranging such programs in different continents to give spiritual help to the church's charity workers so that they can continue to give spiritual and material help to others. We have to grow in union with God, who is the source of our energy and strength. When a person knows the love of God, that person can share love with others. The program for North and South America was held in Mexico. Last September, the program for all of Asia was held here in Taipei. The program could have been anywhere in Asia, but we chose to have it in Taipei. It was really an extraordinary, once-in-a-lifetime event.

4. Msgr. Ambrose Madtha, former Vatican charge d'affaires in Taiwan, said The Church's "coming of age" in Taiwan can also be seen in the reduced number of foreign missionaries present Taiwan. Has there been more Taiwanese missionaries?

      I would agree with my predecessor that the Church in Taiwan has "come of age". It has come of age in so far as it is not dependent on outside financing to run itself and its charitable works. The Church in Taiwan is self-supporting.

      It has "come of age" in the sense that the Catholic Church in Taiwan has an impressive number of institutions which give excellent service to everyone, without discrimination. I brought a copy of the most recent Taiwan Catholic Church Directory for 2010. As of December 31, 2009, there are 299,938 Catholics in Taiwan, 15 bishops, 682 priests, 93 religious brothers, 1146 Sisters, 65 seminarians, 321 catechists, 378 parishes, three Catholic universities, 29 secondary schools, 11 elementary schools, and 167 kindergartens. The church administers 10 hospitals, 7 clinics, 15 orphanages, 20 nursing homes, and 19 centers for handicapped children. This is really an impressive number of high quality institutions of which the Church in Taiwan can be justly proud. I am proud of the Church in Taiwan.

      As for the number of foreign missionaries, my office is keeping a careful watch on the numbers of priests. I made a review of the statistics for the past 10 years. In 2000, there were 339 Chinese priests and 325 foreign priests. In 2004, there were 360 Chinese priests and 366 foreign priests. In 2007 there were 326 Chinese priests and 356 foreign priests. In 2009, there was one more in each category: 327 Chinese priests and 357 foreign priests. From 2000 to 2007, the number of Chinese priests and foreign priests in Taiwan is just about equal. From 2007 until now, there are 30 more foreign priests than Chinese priests. These statistics indicate that the number of priests in Taiwan is fairly stable, and the ratio of Chinese priests to foreign priests is also stable. But everyone is getting older. I think that the Catholic Church in Taiwan is going to need foreign missionaries for many years to come, because there are not many young men from Taiwan who are entering seminary, and Taiwan has one of the lowest, if not the lowest, birthrate in the world. If parents have only one child, especially a son, they want that child to marry and carry on the family line. This is important in the Chinese culture, but also in many cultures around the world. When parents have fewer children, there are fewer people becoming priests and Sisters. That being said, however, I want to point out one significant fact: in the history of the Church in Taiwan there were many missionary bishops; now all the active Catholic bishops of Taiwan were born in Taiwan. They are bishops "made in Taiwan." This is another sign of the church's maturity.

      Recently, Cardinal Shan said that he hoped that the Catholic Church in Taiwan would have enough vocations to be able to send priests to other parts of the world. There are already some priests from Taiwan working in other parts of the world ¡V maybe about 8 priests ¡V who are serving the overseas Chinese community in Canada, the United States, Malaysia, the Philippines, Australia, and Europe. I join with the Cardinal in praying that there will be more in the future.

5. The Catholic Church has been in Taiwan for 150 years now. How much has Catholicism changed in Taiwan?

      Actually, the Catholic Church has been in Taiwan for almost 400 years. The first priests came in 1626. They came from the Philippines, accompanying a small group of Spanish soldiers, and arrived in the north of the island. They remained until 1642 when they were expelled by the Dutch. These first priests received a very good welcome and many people, about 3000-4000 out of a total population of 60,000 to 70,000, were baptized.


      When the Dutch forced the Spanish soldiers to leave, they let these priests stay for a while, then they forced them to leave too. Priests did not return to Taiwan until 1859, arriving in Kaohsiung. That is the 150th anniversary we have been celebrating.

      Now to answer your question: in the Bible, in Hebrews 13:8, we read: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever!" What makes the Catholic Church "Catholic" never changes, it is always the same. Over the past 150 years, the essence of the Catholic Church ¡V what makes the Catholic Church "Catholic" ¡V has not changed.

      That being said, social conditions in Taiwan in 1859 were much different from today. The circumstances of the church have changed. In 1859, Taiwan was a wild and often dangerous place. There were only a handful of Catholics, and the foreign Catholic missionaries ¡V both priests and laypeople, especially families ¡V were dependent on the people with whom they came into contact. Now the Catholics are not foreign, but local; they are a lot more numerous, they enjoy peace and prosperity, and religious freedom.

6. What kinds of exchanges have been going on between Taiwan and the Holy See apart from religious and diplomatic relations?

      Diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Republic of China ¡V Taiwan are stable. There have been many significant events during the course of the past year. First, I would like to mention Typhoon Morakot and the flooding which came with it. The Pope was the first Head of State to send a donation to help the victims. Second was the Cor Unum Spiritual Exercises, which we already talked about. Third, the Republic of China decided to allow Holy See and Vatican City State passport holders to come to Taiwan without a visa. Of course, no visa is required to enter the Vatican City, so now the treatment is reciprocal. Fourth was the 150th anniversary, which we already mentioned. Recently, the ministry of education announced that it would recognize the academic degrees granted by pontifical universities in Rome. I was really overjoyed when I heard this news, because in Taiwan there are about 850 priests, Sisters and laypeople who have degrees from pontifical universities. Until now, those degrees have not been recognized by the government. This is good news for them. This is also good news for students from Taiwan who want to study at one of the pontifical universities in Rome, and it is good news for students from one of the pontifical universities in Rome who want to study in Taiwan.

7. Can you tell me more about these educational exchanges?

      Last summer, about 20 students from Taiwan went to Rome for a two-week program at the pontifical Gregorian University. In the last year, three pontifical universities in Rome signed cooperation agreements with three different universities in Taiwan. This opens the way for academic cooperation and educational exchanges of professors and students. It is something at the beginning. I hope it is something that will grow. When students travel and study in a different cultural context, in a different language, they bring something and they take something away. Student exchanges bring greater understanding among peoples. Greater understanding promotes peace and harmonious relationships among nations. It is something very positive.

8. What do you hope to achieve during your tenure in Taiwan?

      The primary role of the pope¡¦s representative in a country is to support and strengthen the bonds between the pope and the local Church. This connection between the pope and the church in a country is something essential to the Church. Without it, we can¡¦t talk about a Catholic Church. In addition, the Church in Taiwan has its contribution to make to the world-wide Church. In particular, there are several ways that the Church in Taiwan can help the Church in China. The Church in China needs healing and reconciliation. Moreover, the training of its religious personnel is a very serious concern of the Holy See. There are several things the Church in Taiwan can do to help, and in helping the Church in China, the Church in Taiwan also helps itself. There is the Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi: ¡§it is in giving that we receive.¡¨ It is a win-win situation.

      I already mentioned the news reports concerning the Republic of China¡¦s intention to recognize the academic degrees granted by the pontifical universities in Rome. I hope this can happen very soon. There are other pontifical universities in other places in the world. I hope that the government will also recognize the degrees from these universities.

      I would also like to note that the Council for Labor Affairs is looking into the treatment of foreign workers, especially family caregivers. Here I have to say that there are many foreign caregivers whose employers do not give them a day off every week. This is an unjust situation. I hope that foreign caregivers, many of whom are Catholic, can receive more equitable treatment. The Holy See has a long tradition of supporting workers¡¦ rights.

      There are many ways in which the Holy See and the Republic of China can cooperate in the humanitarian, cultural and educational areas.

      For example, the Republic of China - Taiwan is an excellent partner of the Holy See in providing humanitarian assistance around the world. Whenever there is a natural disaster and the pope makes an appeal, the Republic of China responds. No other country does this. I hope that the Republic of China will continue this type of assistance in the future as it has done in the past.

      On a personal note, in every country where I have served, I have grown to love the people, the culture, and the local Catholic Church. I have been in Taiwan for two years and already I love the people of Taiwan and the Catholic Church in Taiwan. I hope that I will grow to love Taiwan and its people more and more. I'm trying to learn the language. One of the first things I learned to say in Chinese is: Tien Zhu shi ai ¡V "God is love." God's love and the compassion we show to one another are the center of life.


9. You served as a counselor at the apostolic nunciature in Nigeria. And now charge d¡¦affaires in Taipei. What did you expect before coming to Taiwan?


      Having served in many countries, Ethiopia, Turkey, Switzerland and Nigeria before coming to Taiwan, I have learned not to form ideas and preconceptions. Every country is different from the image people have of it around the world. I would only say that Taiwan is a very dynamic country; things here are very busy; Taiwan has a great contribution to make to the world. And while the Catholic Church in Taiwan is very small, it is also active, and it has its contribution to make.


10. You were born in the USA. Were you born a Catholic?

      I was born in the U.S., but have lived in 12 different countries and have visited 39 different countries in addition to those. I¡¦ve taken a little piece of every country where I have lived. I was born a Catholic. Both my parents and all my grandparents are Catholic. There are several priests in my family. My cousin is a priest. My mother¡¦s father¡¦s younger brother was a priest. My father¡¦s mother¡¦s cousin was a priest. He was from Poland and was killed in Germany in the concentration camps in World War II. Pope John Paul II beatified him in 1999, so he is one step away from being proclaimed a Saint. In the midst of the camps, in the midst of suffering and in the face of evil, he never lost his humanity, but continued to try to help other people. The prisoners in the camps had almost nothing to eat, and my cousin gave away his bread. He was unselfish. He was faithful to God, to himself and to other people. For me, he is a real inspiration. When people try to hurt us, even though it is difficult, we need to learn to respond without hate or anger, but in a positive way.

Issue 308, March 2010