The first Christian missionary known to have entered China was the Nestorian Alopen from Syria who arrived in Sian, the Tang Capital in A.D. 635. A Nestorian monument erected outside Sian in A.D. 781 was excavated in 1725. However, the so-called Luminous Religion faded and was finally wiped out in 845.
Nestorian missionaries returned in 13th century but with no lasting result.
The first Franciscan missionary visited Peking in 1294 and later claimed 6,000 converts, but Catholicism did not take root until the arrival of the pioneer missionary Mateo Ricci at the end of 16th century. When Mao-Tze-tung came to power in 1949, the Catholic Church had 3,251,347 baptized faithful and 190,850 Catechuments, 20 archdioceses, 90 dioceses, 33 prefectures, an apostolic exarchate of the Byzantine rite, 2,542 Chinese and 3046 foreign Priests. In 1951 the communist government closed the Catholic Central Bureau, expelled the Nuncio and specially nationalized the church, called National Patriotic Association, or Three Selt-Movement. Now, in mainland China, the number of priests had been reduced between 250 to 300, most of them be controlled by government, and they are very old. They still say Mass in Latin according to the pre-Vatican II liturgy.
1949: 5,588 priests; 3,251,347 Catholics; population: 750,000,000
1988: 300 priests; 1,080,000 Catholics; population: 1,889,865,000
2000: 250 priests; 900,000 Catholics; population: 1,127,295,000
1989: 815 priests; 290,249 Catholics; population: 20,400,000
Spanish missionaries were the first to come to Taiwan, reaching the city of Keelung and Tanshui in Northern Taiwan in 1626. In 1642, after the Dutch occupation, they were arrested and deported to Batavia, Indonesia. On May 18, 1859, Spanish Dominicans came from Philippines through Amoy, to Kaohsiung where they established the Church.
The Taiwan territory belonged originally to the Fukien Apostolic Vicariate, which was divided in 1883 into the two vicariates of Fuchow and Amoy, Taiwan belonging to the later. After the Japanese occupation of the Island, it was only on July 19, 1913, that Taiwan became an independent apostolic prefecture, having successively two prefects and apostolic of Spanish nationality, namely, Msgr. Clemente Fernandez, from 1913 to 1920, and Msgr. Tomas de la Hoz, from 1920 to 1941. Under the pressure of the Japanese government, a Japanese prefect apostolic was appointed in the person of Msgr. Atowaki Asajiro (1941-1946).
After the Japanese surrender in 1946, Reverend Tu Min-cheng, a native priest of Taiwan, was appointed administrator of the Taiwan prefecture. On March 5, 1948, Rev. Jose Arregui, OP, was appointed prefect.
Today, Taiwan has one archdiocese, six dioceses, 290,249 faithful and 815 priests. However, most of priests moved from the Mainland to Taiwan and now are old. With the 769 Churches, schools, and many Catholic activities, Taiwan is lacking of pastors.
In June 1959, Pope John XXIII requested Archbishop Paul Yupin to work toward the re-establishment in Taiwan of Fu-Jen University that was founded in Peking 1929. In 1963 their plan had been accomplished. Fu-Jen Catholic University is very modern and famous. At present the university has a faculty of 950 and more than 16,000 students pursuing degrees ranging from the BA, BS,... to Ph.D.
Even though operating in a small island, the Catholic Church in Taiwan has also a great capacity sponsoring for many international conferences, as well as the International Catholic Radio and TV, 1971, 1985, the federation of the Asia Bishops Conferences, the Third Bishops Institute for missionary Apostolate, the Six Asian Meeting of Religious, etc...
The Regional Seminary of Taiwan, close to Fu-Jen University, is a very comfortable place for formation of Seminarians on the three aspects of priesthood: Physical, Intellectual, Spiritual Education.
Following the decline of the priesthood vocation all over the world, the number of priests in Taiwan is declining more and more. The Taiwanese Bishops are trying to call Chinese young people, however, the answer is very soft. Visiting Vietnamese Communities in USA, they have paid attention to the devotion of Vietnamese families, and specially the great number of young men who are courageous to follow their priesthood vocation, the Taiwanese Bishops invited them to come and serve God in the midst of Chinese people.
The first Vietnamese missionary who arrived in Taiwan was Father Joseph Vu Kim Chinh, a Jesuit priest, who came from Austria in 1980.
In 1985, the number of Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan increased when many Vietnamese seminarians from USA, Canada, Australia... volunteered to join to Taiwan dioceses. They studied Chinese, philosophy, theology at the Fu-Jen University of Taiwan, and were ordained as priests after they graduated from the University. Out of the dioceses, every year, many missionary societies in USA such as Maryknoll, Devine Word, Jesuit, Columban... continued to send their Vietnamese missionaries to Taiwan. In recent years, since 1995, some orders and congregations in Taiwan began to turn their direction to the South-East-Asian country to look for new vocations among the Vietnamese communities in Asia.
The number of Vietnamese Missionaries in Taiwan now (in 1999) are about 55 persons: 25 priests, 6 seminarians, and 24 sisters.