Father Alberto Papa, an Italian priest who served Aboriginal communities in Taiwan for more than four decades, was yesterday posthumously honored for his contribution to the preservation and promotion of the Atayal language and culture.
The priest died in Italy at the end of last month and a memorial mass was held at Holy Cross Sanmin Catholic Church in Taoyuan.
At the mass, Council of Indigenous Peoples deputy head Qucung Qalavangan gave the head of the Order of Friars Minor a national professional medal on behalf of Father Alberto.
The award was given in honor of his dedication to the welfare of Taiwan’s Aboriginal communities, especially his promotion of Atayal language and culture, the council official said.
During his time in Taoyuan’s mountainous Fusing District (復興), home to the Atayal community, the priest arranged sewing classes for local women so that they could have a livelihood, he said.
His other contributions included establishing a community clinic at a time when medical care was not easily accessible in such remote and mountain areas, he added.
The priest first came to Taiwan in 1963 at the age of 27 and while serving in Fuxing, he learned Chinese and the Atayal language.
He translated the Bible into Atayal and compiled texts of Romanized Atayal to help the community preserve its culture and traditions.
After 46 years of service in Taiwan, Father Alberto retired, returning to Italy in July 2009.
A year later, he returned to Taiwan, not as a Catholic Church missionary, but to continue as a student of the Atayal language and culture.
In 2016, he returned to Italy, where he remained until his death on Oct. 31 at the age of 85.
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