On the morning of October 1, President Tsai Ing-wen met with a group of foreign Catholic clergy members serving in Taiwan. She thanked her visitors for their compassion and service to Taiwan, and spoke about some of the measures the Taiwan government has taken—including the launch of the Mackay Program and amendments to the Nationality Act—to repay people like Catholic clergy for their years of service. These measures provide special treatment to qualified persons and make it easier for them to obtain ROC nationality. Taiwan wants to care for these people, said the president.
In remarks, President Tsai noted that the Catholic clergy members on hand had served in Taiwan for a combined total of more than 1,200 years, with each having spent an average of 36 years in the country. The president expressed sincere gratitude for their contribution, perseverance, compassion, and care for Taiwan.
President Tsai mentioned that her visitors actively contributed in such fields as medical care, education, and services for women, the elderly, and persons with physical and mental disabilities. Through their patience and compassion, she said, they have contributed significantly to social progress in Taiwan.
The president pointed out that her very best partner, Vice President Chen Chien-jen, is also a devout Catholic, and that she and the vice president have been working together to engage in public affairs and serve Taiwanese society. The president noted that in the course of this collaboration, she has come to keenly appreciate how Vice President Chen has been influenced by Catholicism. In his work, he demonstrates not just the rationality of a scientist, but also an abundance of compassion and patience. This experience has made her feel all the more respect for the visitors, she said.
President Tsai noted that one of her visitors was Sister Flaviana Sebis (周寧慧), who has lived in Taiwan for 57 years. During this time, she has made contribution in educating children and serving the needy in remote areas of Hsinchu. The president also mentioned Father Murray Eugene Michael (曾顯道), who came to Taiwan in 1958, and has been in Taiwan longer than any other foreign clergy member. Father Murray, she said, has devoted himself to education in Chingshui, Taichung. He particularly focuses on socially disadvantaged families and migrant workers and regularly visits local prisons. He has served in Taiwan for 60 years, which is truly remarkable. And Sister O Anuna (滿詠萱) has used her expertise as a pharmacist to care for people with serious cases of cerebral palsy and other disabled and needy persons in Chiayi. In recognition of her contributions, she was presented with a Medical Contribution Award.
Due to time restraints, said the president, it would be impossible to mention everyone's story, but she thanked them and affirmed that all of their contributions to Taiwan were equally significant. On behalf of the nation, President Tsai expressed her highest respect for every senior clergy member in Taiwan, including those not present among the visitors.
President Tsai emphasized that veteran Catholic clergy members in Taiwan served here during the hardest years of our country, so it's time now for Taiwan to repay their kindness. There are currently 167 senior Catholic clergy members who have benefitted from the Mackay Program in many different ways. They receive discounts, for example, when they use mass transportation systems and visit scenic areas managed by government agencies or educational and cultural facilities. Long-term care is also available to those in need of it.
President Tsai then mentioned that the government amended the Nationality Act two years ago to allow foreign nationals who have made a special contribution to Taiwan to obtain ROC nationality without renouncing their original nationality. One notable example is Father Brendan O'Connell (甘惠忠), who led the singing of the national anthem at the 2017 ROC National Day celebrations, and was the first foreign clergy member to obtain a Taiwan national ID card. Another such person, said the president, is Father Hugo Peter (吳道遠), who was among the visitors and received his national ID card that day from Premier Lai Ching-te (賴清德). In closing, President Tsai welcomed other long-time foreign clergy members to obtain Taiwan citizenship via this same channel, so that Taiwan can have an opportunity to care for them.