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Taiwan theology school to accept more mainland students

 

Taipei (UCAN): The Fu Jen Faculty of Theology of St. Robert Bellarmine in northern Taiwan will accept more Catholic priests, as well as men and women religious from mainland China for theological studies in the coming year.

Since the school accepted students from the mainland three years ago, more than 100 have come to study at the theological faculty, according to Jesuit Father Louis Gendron, who became the dean in September. Last year, the faculty enrolled about 40 new students.

“Except for a handful who are priests in their 40s, the majority of the religious men and women are in their 20s and 30s, and they are doing fine so far,” the former head of the  China Province of the Society of Jesus said.

At the moment, Father Gendron says he does not know how many more students will be enrolled, as that they list has to be approved by the Interior Ministry of Taiwan.

“It is a different channel from other mainland students whose applications are made through the Education Ministry, as the faculty is managed directly under the Vatican,” he explained.

Recognised by the Vatican Congregation for Catholic Education, the three-year full-time theology programme will also have its first batch of mainland graduates next year.

Father Gendron expects the enrollment of laypeople from the mainland will come in one or two years time when the faculty is ready to accept them.

He added that there are relatively fewer students from Taiwan and they are mostly laypeople and women religious, as vocations have dwindled significantly in recent years and the Catholic population on the island is small.

Some priests in the mainland welcomed the news.

“Compared with Hong Kong, The Philippines or western countries, studying in Taiwan has the advantage of having Mandarin Chinese as the medium for teaching. That means we do not have to struggle to learn a new language,” a priest who asked not to be named said.

However, he added that there is still a huge demand from more than 100 dioceses in China, as well as uncertainty as to whether or not would-be students can get permission to leave the country.

The Faculty of Theology became an independent institute, detaching from the Fu Jen Catholic University six months ago following the signing of  a mutual recognition accord of educational qualifications between the government of Taiwan and the Vatican in 2011.

 

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