FROM CAROL GLATZ IN ROME
THE TAMA N LSE. ambassador to the Vatican was so impressed with seeing "an inner peace and happiness" in the Catholics he met while living and working in Rome that he decided to convert to Catholicism, it has emerged.
Ambassador Tou Chou-seng was baptised a Catholic during a Mass last week in his parish Church of St Eugenio in Rome. The 20th-century church is run by the personal prelature of Opus Dei, and Spanish Bishop Javier Echevarria Rodriguez, head of Opus Dei, presided over the Mass and baptism.
The 64-year-old diplomat said he was "very happy" about becoming a part of the Catholic Church and feels he has been given a new life.
He said the decision to convert was "a long-time process, a meditation, a discovering [of] the truths about Catholi cism." Many factors — beginning with his appointment as Taiwan's ambassador to the Vatican — came together over the years to put him on the path toward Christ, he said.
That appointment was "a divine grace," a gift from God as it exposed him to the many documents and teachings of the Church as well as to the Pope's homilies, he said.
He also met large numbers of Vatican officials, men and women religious, and lay Catholics though his diplomatic work in Rome.
He said he found "a very special thing" in these people, something unusual that piqued his curiosity; he sensed they almost all possessed "a kind of peace, inner peace, happiness, and that really touched me".
He said he tried to uncover the reason for their happiness and he discovered it was "because they have Christ in their
hearts and they live following the example of Christ".
Born in 1942 in mainland China, Tou said he and his parents moved to Taiwan when he was five years old. He did not have any religious upbringing, he said, although he attended a Protestant church during middle and high sehool.
He was an avid reader of Confucian and Buddhist philosophy and writings but he "wasn't moved" by either belief system. he said.
Tou's wife and two sons are Catholic, and he said they were thrilled with his decision to be baptised.
Even though he said Catholic members in his family and friends had always told him they were praying for him, he said he never felt pressured by anyone to become Catholic.
He said he felt their prayers for him were "out of good will. No one can force anybody to believe in a religion."
Tou, who has been a diplomat to the Vatican since 2004, said he has not yet informed government officials in Taiwan about his baptism, but plans to do so. He said there is full religious freedom in Taiwan, so informing them would just be a formality and would not signal that he was seeking approval from the government for his religious beliefs.
Other ambassadors to the Vatican as well as some members of the Vatican Secretariat of State, including the foreign minister, Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, attended the ceremony, which featured Gospel readings and the Hail Mary in Chinese. Tou had the Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, Leonida Vera, be his godmother. •
Becoming a Catholic represents "a rebirth," the ambassador said "Every time I speak or react I think twice now because I'm a Catholic. I cannot behave as it was before," he said with a laugh.