Taoyuan, An Italian priest who served for 46 years in indigenous communities in Taiwan died last week in his home country at the age of 85, the Taiwan embassy in the Vatican said Wednesday.
Father Alberto Papa passed away Oct. 31 in his hometown of Bari, and a funeral service was held for him on Nov. 3, the embassy said in a Facebook post.
The priest first came to Taiwan in 1963, when he was 27, and was based in the mountainous Fuxing District in Taoyuan, which is home to the indigenous Ataya tribe.
During his service in the area, which was formerly called Fuxing Township, he became proficient not only in Mandarin but also in the Atayal language.
He translated the Bible into Atayal and wrote a number of texts that transcribed the Atayal language into Roman letters, helping the Ataya to preserve their culture and traditions.
In an interview published in a Taoyuan government periodical in 2016, Fr. Alberto said he decided to write those texts after he realized that many young Atayal tribespeople spoke only Mandarin and were in danger of losing their mother language.
Fr. Alberto also opened a pharmacy in the remote township and hired a doctor to visit three times a week. The pharmacy later became a two-story community clinic, at a time when medical care was not easily accessible in such remote mountain areas.
In recognition of his contribution to the preservation of Atayal culture, the Taoyuan local government named him an honorary citizen of Fuxing Township.
After 46 years of service in Taiwan, Fr. Alberto returned to Italy in July 2009, having reached the age of retirement. A year later he returned to Taiwan, not as a missionary, but rather to continue to study the Atayal language and culture. In 2016, he went home to Italy, where he remained until his death on Oct. 31.
Since his death was announced on the Taiwan embassy’s Facebook page, several people have been positing tributes, many of them expressing gratitude for his service and devotion to the Taiwanese people.
“To me, he was part of my big family,” one message read.
“Father Papa will always be remembered,” another person wrote.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel