23 May 2018
Ad Limina

Taiwan: The Beautiful Testimony of a Small Flock

The Bishops of the Regional Episcopal Conference of China (Taiwan) came to our Dicastery on their Ad Limna visit on May 14th.

The prelates said that today in Taiwan, a country of traditionally very religious populations, there is a general decline of religious experience. This phenomenon, which affects all the confessions, is due primarily to the advance of secularization as well as profound social and cultural changes in lifestyles. For example, excessive work (in some cases, up to 62 hours a week) deprives many people of the space for social life and, therefore, also religious life.

In this context, even the Catholic Church, already numerically a small religious minority in the country, is suffering from a rising and constant diminution of the faithful, of which the decline of priestly vocations is both a contributing cause and consequence.

However, in spite of the visibly small number, the Church’s work and impact on the life of the country’s society are very significant. In fact, through the numerous schools and universities, the dense network of health facilities, rehabilitation centers, hospices for the elderly, boarding schools for young people—all structures founded mostly by missionary congregations and dioceses, but managed by a large and generous staff of laypeople—, the Church offers a luminous testimony of her faith in Christ.

In addition, the Church is working hard to promote initiatives of fraternal dialogue between the religious faiths that coexist on the island. One result of this commitment is the recognition awarded by the Taipei government to 8 Catholic organizations in 2012 with the following motivation: “Christian witness as an example of integration between different cultures and faiths, and a source of improvement in the country’s general living standard.”

On the inter-ecclesial level, the Bishops have recognized that much remains to be done so that the laity may be more engaged in the life of the Church and in the work of evangelization. Therefore, they highlighted the need to invest more resources in their formation.

On the theme of life, the Bishops’ testimony showed that abortion is at the top of the attacks against human life in Taiwan. Because of the widespread practice of abortion and the so-called “morning-after pill,” it is estimated that more than 240,000 children die each year in Taiwan. Moreover, for some time now, the Taiwanese Church, in conjunction with the other religious confessions, has actively been denouncing the death penalty which is still in force.

With regard to the family, there are many challenges: the marriage crisis among the young, who are getting married less and less frequently and are having fewer children; 80% of Catholics marry non-Catholics, and consequently over 50% of them end up abandoning the Church while 34% entirely give up educating their children in the faith; the recognition of same-sex marriage is a de facto reality in the country, although the regulatory framework does not allow it formally.

To cope with all these threats, the Church in Taiwan has, for some years, been strengthening the pastoral care of the family at all levels of the Church. To this end, She has multiplied the opportunities for study and deepening of the post-synodal Apostolic Exhortation Amoris Laetitia, which serves as a compass for pastoral commitment to the service of families.

Finally, the Bishops spoke enthusiastically about their young people, who are dynamic and eager to deepen their knowledge of Christ and to walk in the Church: very many of them joyfully respond to the invitations of the pastors, participating especially at the Taiwanese Youth Day and the Asian Youth Day as well as in the international edition of the World Youth Day.