The Archbishop of the Taipei Archdiocese will today lead a delegation to the Vatican to present a report for the first time to Pope Benedict XVI on the state of the nation’s dioceses and to invite the pope to attend next year’s celebrations of the 150th anniversary of the establishment of the Catholic Church in Taiwan.
“We will present an invitation to the pope in the hope that he can visit Taiwan next year,” Archbishop John Hung (洪山川) told the Central News Agency on Wednesday.
The visit will be the first time Taiwanese bishops will report to Benedict XVI, who was elected pope in 2005. Taiwanese bishops met the late pope John Paul II in 2002.
If the pope cannot come to Taiwan, a special envoy or a representative is expected to attend the celebrations next year, Hung said.
The eight-member delegation will include bishops and auxiliary bishops. Their trip will last until Dec. 15.
The delegation will also report on the dioceses’ exchanges with Chinese churches, such as the donation of books.
The policies of the Roman Catholic Church state that residential diocesan bishops are supposed to visit the pope and report on the state of their dioceses every five years.
To celebrate the 150th anniversary, Taiwan’s bishops and parish priests hope to baptize 15,000 people next year.
The Catholic Church was established in Taiwan in 1859 when three Spanish Dominican priests from the Philippines and five Chinese missionaries arrived in Kaohsiung and built the nation’s first Catholic church. Catholicism first arrived in the 17th Century when Taiwan was occupied by the Spanish.
Peter Liu (劉振忠), bishop of the Kaohsiung diocese, said the number of Catholic followers has reached about 300,000 people and there are at present 724 Catholic churches, 682 priests and 1,052 nuns.