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Belgian priests receive recognition for humanitarian work

2011/11/27 20:27:00

Taipei, Nov. 27 (CNA) Three Catholic priests from Belgium have been granted permanent residence in Taiwan in recognition of their long-term humanitarian work in the country, the National Immigration Agency (NIA) said Sunday.

The semi-retired priests, Anthony Maes, Marcel Goffart, and Willy Ollevier, received permanent residence cards on Saturday, which also entitles them to reduced public transportation fares and entry fees to educational and recreational venues, the NIA said.

They have all served for more than 40 years in Taiwan, doing charity and missionary work, the agency said.

In addition to spreading the gospel, the priests have taken the time to care for disadvantaged groups, which is touching and admirable, said NIA Director-General Hsieh Li-kung.

The priests are based at the Taiwan branch of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM), which celebrated its 150th anniversary Saturday.

The CICM's mission includes providing free shelter for the homeless, helping underprivileged workers, and offering assistance to children from single-parent families.

Maes, 79, was quoted in the media as saying that during his service at a shelter in Taipei, he saw many homeless people come and go and what made him most happy was when they managed to get back on their feet again.

"I was especially moved to see them become willing to go home or find a job," he was quoted as saying. Goffart, 74, who directed Taiwan's first St.

Therese of Lisieux Church, organizes after-school programs for disadvantaged children. Ollevier, the youngest of the three, helps workers to obtain more resources, for example, by seeking compensation for occupational accidents.

"Giving a timely helping hand actually saved a whole family," he said in a report in the China Times.

The 71-year-old often participates in human rights campaigns as well. (By Liu Chien-pang and Kendra Lin) enditem/pc