Sat, Nov 19, 2016 - Page 4 News List

Renovated 156-year-old church statue unveiled

By Luo Hsin-chen and William Hetherington  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Catholics attend a service at the nation’s oldest Catholic church, Wanchin Church in Pingtung County, on Sunday.

Photo: Luo Hsin-chen, Taipei Times

A 156-year-old church statue destroyed a few months ago in an arson attack has been restored and unveiled at a ceremony in Pingtung County, drawing visitors from across the county and from as far as Taitung.

The statue of the Virgin Mary in the confessional at Taiwan’s oldest Catholic church, Wanchin Church in Pingtung County, was restored after it was set on fire in August.

The restored statue was unveiled in a ceremony on Sunday after having undergone 100 days of repairs.

Visitors at the church for the unveiling said they were happy with the results of the restoration work.

“It is really quite beautiful,” one visitor said.

The statue was originally constructed in Spain and it was taken to the church in 1870.

About 60 years ago, experts in Spanish renovation techniques were hired to renovate the statue, which had begun showing signs of aging, the church said.

The statue then remained untouched until the arson attack in August that destroyed its crown, handmade clothing and hair, it said.

The church said it hired local expert Pan Shen-te (潘憲德), who has knowledge of Spanish renovation techniques, to do the restoration work, adding that 50cm of hair and a veil were donated by parishioners.

The priest traveled to the Philippines, where he found replacement clothes for the statue, the church said.

Aside from replacing the hair, Pan also polished and painted the statue during the restoration process, the church said.

The church unveiled the renovated statue following a ceremony led by Archbishop Peter Liu (劉振忠) of the Kaohsiung Catholic diocese.

Immediately after the ceremony, workers installed acrylic tiles around the statue and placed security cameras in the confessional to prevent a recurrence of the attack, the church said.

The attendance at Sunday’s Mass was larger than usual, the church said, adding that more than 1,000 people were present, including some who had traveled from Taitung.

Father Hsu Ching-hsien (徐清賢) said the cost of restoring the statue was nearly NT$300,000 and that he was very thankful for the contributions made by parishioners.

The church is applying for the palanquin used for the statue, which was also damaged, to be recognized by the county government as a cultural treasure, as the local government would then cover the costs of its restoration, Hsu said.

If the application is processed quickly, the church would have time to restore the palanquin before an annual procession on Dec. 11, he said.

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