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Catholic Church Updates

January Updates 2022


January 2022


7 Updates


1. Making God's love visible in society - Nan Tang parish in Beijing.

2. Christmas celebrated in the nation respecting health 

measures   - In Mongolia: opening of a church.

3.China- Spiritual retreat of priests in view of Christmas.

4. Christmas lights are turned on: the Catholic community intensifies its spiritual journey and its works of charity.

5. Hong Kong’s new Catholic bishop vows to heal divisions, foster new generation of believers.

6. Let the Holy Spirit surprise you, Bishop Chow says.

7."Me and my seminary": the seminary in Beijing celebrates 40 years of commitment to priesthood formation.




Making God's love visible in society - Nan Tang parish

in Beijing.

11th January 2022

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - Making God's love visible in society: this has been the mission of the Group of volunteers of the Nan Tang parish in Beijing for 10 years

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - During the year 2021, until December 31, the Nan Tang Parish Volunteer Group of the Archdiocese of Beijing, dedicated to the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which was founded by the great Jesuit missionary Fr. Matteo Ricci, supported 372 university or high school students from families with financial difficulties. Twenty of them have completed their high school studies and 17 have passed the university entrance exams, despite the difficulties related to the Covid pandemic.

This is the annual report published by the Group, which pursues its mission to make God's love and mercy visible in Chinese society with concrete activities and, above all, with the example of a life lived in a Christian way. The report also contains a detailed list of the assisted students, with the possibility of contacting them for those who are interested in helping them directly or in knowing more about the work of the Group.

Founded in 2011, the Group began its activities by helping the elderly and orphans; by sending material aid to areas with economic difficulties or affected by natural disasters. Later it focused on supporting the studies of children by building libraries (since 2015 it has built 9 libraries), and in 2014, offering distance adoption for students, that is, help for their studies.

In the first two years of the initiative, they helped 3,746 university or high/middle school students. Their assistance service for the elderly has also involved civil authorities.

The 10 years of life of the group are based on solid faith, constant prayer, a broad and effective collaboration between priests, religious and lay faithful, and also on good administrative capacity, with maximum transparency. The lack of means of transport and the high cost of shipping costs, at the beginning of the Group's activity, led to the creation of the team of transport volunteers. Today it is an authentic small logistics agency, with excellent financial management: by making their cars available, volunteers are able to bring aid to about fifty cities in China that are in a precarious economic situation.

Currently the Group has grown and has even reached the second generation, with the children of the first volunteers, friends from work or university volunteers, who are not necessarily Catholic. The Group is therefore a living school of Christian charity and an instrument of evangelization in today's society, as it offers spiritual and material help to those in need.



Christmas celebrated in the nation respecting health 

measures   - In Mongolia: opening of a church.

4th January 2022

Agenzia Fides -

CHINA - Christmas celebrated in the nation respecting health measures;
in Mongolia the authorities grant Catholics the extraordinary opening of the church

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - The civil authorities of Inner Mongolia, where anti Covid measures are still very strict and all places of worship are closed, have granted the extraordinary opening of the church for the Christmas celebration. According to the Catholic publishing house "Faith" based in Hebei, this happened in the Dongtang parish in the diocese of Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia. The Catholic faithful were able to celebrate the solemn Eucharist on December 24th, thanks to the collaboration of the faithful with the volunteers who checked the booking on their mobile phones, the vaccination certificate and the temperature at the entrance to the church and divided the faithful into different groups.

During the homily, Fr Barisu, the parish priest of Dongtang emphasized: "Christmas is a great celebration of humanity, but above all it is a celebration of gratitude. Only when we live in gratitude can each of us enjoy our spiritual life to the fullest". The Catholic faithful of this community also experienced Christmas under the sign of solidarity: Since the places in the church were limited due to the pandemic, the adults left their place to the elderly and the youngest.

From the urban centers to the most remote communities, Catholics in mainland China celebrated the birth of the Lord in communion with the universal Church and, as in all parts of the world, in strict compliance with anti-Covid-19 measures. Many Catholics were able to pray and meditate in front of the manger set up in the church and, as the parish priests recommended, "take a little manger with them in their hearts in which the baby Jesus is always present".

In the Beijing Seminary Church, parishioners also celebrated the admission of four newly baptized persons over the Christmas season. While Bishop Joseph Shen Bin von Haimen (Nantong, Jiangsu Province) celebrated Christmas mass on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day in the Sacred Heart Cathedral. He encouraged believers to continue strengthening their faith, because "Christmas is about learning to give, not just receiving, doing our best to help the weak and needy, and practicing our faith". He also hoped that "Catholics will take more care of the Church, cultivate the Christian life of faith in families and thereby contribute to the harmony and stability of society". The bishops of the dioceses of Guangzhou, Jiangmen, Meizhou, Zhanjiang and Shantou in Guangdong Province also celebrated Christmas under the banner of measures to contain the pandemic. In the eight parishes of the Archdiocese of Guangzhou, a total of 16 masses were celebrated in Chinese, English and Korean from December 24th to 25th in order to meet the needs of Korean guest workers and immigrants from different countries.



China- Spiritual retreat of priests in view of Christmas.


22nd December 2021

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - Spiritual retreat of priests in view of Christmas

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - Eliminate the worldly evils of which priests have contaminated themselves in the midst of society and return to the flock to exude the fragrance of the shepherd: these are the recommendations that Monsignor Joseph Shen Bin, Bishop of the Diocese of Haimen (Nantong), in the province of Jiangsu, in mainland China, addressed to his priests during the spiritual retreat in view of Christmas. During the four days of intense spiritual retreat, from December 14 to 17, the diocesan priests reflected and meditated on the priestly vocation, each starting from their own experience. They then addressed the theme of their relationship with God, with the community, with the faithful, with the Bishop and with their confreres. Furthermore, they also faced the excessive search for money, power, physical well-being of some priests. All the themes were the object of discernment, in the awareness of their own priestly vocation. The retreat was a spiritual renewal for everyone, according to the testimonies of the participants, who now feel ready to start again with the strength received from these intense days of encounter with the Lord, with the brothers in priesthood and with their Bishop, Monsignor Shen Bin.

The Diocese of Haimen (Nantong) is located in the eastern part of Jiangsu Province. It has recently celebrated the 95 years of its foundation and also the 95 years of the consecration of its first Bishop, Monsignor Simon Zhu Kaimin, who was one of the first 6 Bishops of Chinese origin consecrated by Pope Pius XI in St. Peter, on October 28, 1926, fruit of the intense pastoral work of Monsignor Celso Costantini, the first Apostolic Delegate to China. In his 30 years of episcopal ministry, Monsignor Simon Zhu built 156 churches (almost one for each village and district), as well as a hospital, school, home for the elderly, orphanage and many other social services, such as tools of evangelization. In July 1931 he also founded the congregation of the Sisters of Saint Teresa of the Child Jesus, which today has about thirty nuns active in the parishes, in the health and social fields. He was defined as "the apostle of Jesus, pillar of the Church". Currently this ecclesiastical district has more than 30,000 faithful, divided into 24 parishes, with 15 priests and about twenty religious. Even today, the diocese of Haimen is one of the most active communities in the pastoral and evangelization field.



Christmas lights are turned on: the Catholic community intensifies its spiritual journey and its works of charity.

13th December 2021

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - Christmas lights are turned on: the Catholic community intensifies its spiritual journey and its works of charity

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - Yesterday, on the third Sunday of Advent, the Christmas lights, lights of hope, illuminated the different parishes of Beijing, with great emotion of the faithful, who were able to return to the churches after yet another restriction caused by COVID-19. Among these communities, the faithful of the parish of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, gathered in the courtyard of the church with lighted candles in their hands, whispering prayers with the melodious song of the parish choir “Teodorico Pedrini”.

In this way, they paid homage to Fr. Teodorico Pedrini (CM, Fermo June 30. 1671 - Beijing December 10, 1746), a great Italian missionary, theologian and author of sacred songs, who founded and lived in this church during his stay in the capital of the Qing dynasty empire. It was an evocative moment, above all a strong moment of faith and missionary spirit, because the faithful transmitted the joy of the Christian message to all those who live in the area, offering a living and eloquent witness.

The Chinese Catholics' path to Christmas has intensified in recent weeks also through concrete charitable works. On the feast of St.Francis Xavier, Patron of the mission in China, the Charity group of the parish of Aozhen, in the city of Ordos, Inner Mongolia, led by Fr. Qiqigeli, of Mongolian origin, and by the nuns, despite the sub-zero temperature, visited the county nursing home.

In addition to Christmas gifts, they brought the Lord's Love to the elderly, through medical care, assistance and willingness to listen to them and spend a day with them. Finally, the parish priest gave the blessing to the elderly and the nurses and assistants. The Yongnian Basic Ecclesial Community in Shanghai was established 16 years ago by a group of immigrant workers from the diocese of Yongnian (now Handan), in the province of Hebei.

Throughout these years of hard work, they have never neglected the life of faith and charitable commitment. During the liturgical celebration on the theme "Along the way of the beatitudes", on December 4, the members of the group confirmed their spirit of adherence to both the mother diocese of Yongnian and the diocese of Shanghai, which welcomed them.

In addition to active participation in the life of the parish where they are guests and in the monthly community meeting, around Christmas, the members of the community have helped families in difficulty, donated blood, visited the elderly and the sick. They also financially supported the construction of the bishopric, the diocesan training center, the orphanage and the restoration of churches in various dioceses.



Hong Kong’s new Catholic bishop vows to heal divisions, foster new generation of believers.

4th December 2021

South China Morning Post

Hong Kong’s new Catholic bishop vows to heal divisions, foster new generation of believers

* Stephen Chow was consecrated and installed as bishop on Saturday afternoon after the post had sat vacant for nearly three years

* Alluding to recent ‘unhappy and uncomfortable’ events in the city, Chow pledged to make the church a ‘bridge’ for reconciliation

By: Christy Leung

The new head of Hong Kong’s Catholic diocese has pledged to repair divisions in the community after the polarising events of recent years, urging the public to open themselves up to reconciliation.

Stephen Chow Sau-yan, 62, was consecrated and installed as bishop at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception on Caine Road on Saturday afternoon. The Episcopal Ordination was officiated by Cardinal John Tong Hon.

In his remarks during the ceremony, Chow said churches without young parishioners had no future, and as such, he would work harder to foster the next generation of believers. The church, he added, would also not forget the poor, marginalised and forgotten.

Speaking to reporters after the ordination, Chow alluded to the “unhappy and uncomfortable” events that had gripped Hong Kong in the past, but urged young people not to let their thinking be constrained by current circumstances, adding that the church would serve as an agent of reconciliation.

“Our churches are willing to serve as a platform or a bridge to let it happen,” Chow said.

“Things will not be perfect at the start. There needs to be confidence. There needs to be time to test the water. Everything will succeed with good faith because we believe in God. God, who is just and loving, will help us.”

Chow’s long-delayed appointment was first announced by the Holy See in May after the post had sat vacant for more than two years. Observers had previously said the incoming bishop would be expected to navigate a new political environment ushered in by the 2019 anti-government protests and the national security law imposed by Beijing the following year.

Trained in education psychology, Chow has headed the Society of Jesus in Hong Kong since 2018 and has been supervisor of its two Wah Yan Colleges, Catholic secondary schools for boys, since 2007.

At 62, Chow is one of the youngest priests to be put in charge of the Hong Kong diocese since the Vatican began appointing Chinese bishops in the city nearly 50 years ago.

Chow has previously taken part in commemorations marking the June 4 Tiananmen Square crackdown – a politically sensitive topic since the imposition of the security law. Asked about his views on Saturday, he said only that the bloody crackdown was a heartbreaking experience and that he hoped it would not happen again.

The diocese has been without a permanent head since the death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung in January 2019. The Vatican brought 82-year-old former bishop John Tong Hon out of retirement to serve as the apostolic administrator.

Hong Kong’s 404,000-strong Catholic community enjoys a strong social and political influence, especially in the education and charity sectors. The city’s leader, Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor, is known to be a devout Catholic, as is one of her predecessors, Donald Tsang Yam-kuen.

* Christy Leung is a senior reporter and has written about crime and security-related stories for the Post's Hong Kong desk since 2015. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Media Communication and German Studies, Christy began her journalism career in 2010 by working for Deutsche Welle TV in Berlin before joining Asia Television as a news anchor and reporter. Her work has been recognised in the WAN-IFRA Asia Media Awards 2016 and the Newspaper Society’s 2020 Hong Kong News Award.



Let the Holy Spirit surprise you, Bishop Chow says.


3rd December 2021

Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong




When Pope Francis, a Jesuit, was elected pope in 2013, the Church witnessed a new vitality and hope. What can we expect from Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan, also a Jesuit? The answer was quick: “I am not Francis!” Bishop Chow sat over a cup of coffee to chat with the diocesan newspapers—the Sunday Examiner and the Kung Kao Po, a couple of weeks before his episcopal ordination and installation as the ninth bishop of Hong Kong.   

Bishop Chow acknowledged the common factor that he shares with the pope: “As Jesuits, one of our General Chapters gave great importance to spiritual conversation and discernment in communion—communion not just among the Jesuits, but we have to discern with non-Jesuits in mission and our lay-partners in mission. I think that is an important way for a bishop. And I don’t believe in running the diocese like a corporation with big strategic plans. We have to listen to different sectors, especially laypeople. They have a voice to represent. And this is what the pope means by Synodality. Francis is very much a Jesuit!” 


Bishop Chow was baptised on the 10th day after his birth at the parish of the Holy Souls of Purgatory, which is now known as Our Lady of Mount Carmel, in Wan Chai. He attended Rosaryhill kindergarten and primary school before joining Wah Yan College. He showed great interest in academics and co-curricular activities and was keen on learning judo until one day he developed a severe, life-threatening form of epilepsy. 

‘When the pendulum swings, it swings to the extremes!’

Repeated hospitalisation, prolonged treatment and medication traumatised the young man. He thought he might die. His father brought him to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception to see a priest. Contrary to his fears that the priest would scold him for not going to the church regularly, he found compassion in Father Antony Tsang Hing-lam and that infused faith in his young mind. 

“When the pendulum swings, it swings to the extremes!” Bishop Chow laughed. He began to frequent church and the sacraments, even to the point of the priest telling him not to come back for Confession on the same day! 

His health condition affected his academic grades and even hampered his social life. Hence, he became involved in different Catholic groups on campus as well as in the parish, serving as an altar boy, with the Christian Life Community and the Apostleship of Prayer, as well as with the Red Cross … “You name it, and I was there … except that I did not go back to judo, because my parents would not allow me to!” he siad, adding that he gradually became acquainted with the Jesuit priests of the campus and began to think, “Becoming a Jesuit was not a bad idea!” 

His results were not good enough to gain admission into either of the two available universities in Hong Kong. Still, his father could afford to send him to the University of Minnesota in the United States of America. 

Vocational journey 

Bishop Chow felt that one important development during the years he spent in the university was his attraction to the altar and the sanctuary in the church. Although the parishioners at this US parish were not so welcoming of foreigners, “I felt attracted to the altar every time I went to the church and had a feeling deep within me that that is the place where I should be,” Bishop Chow recalled, adding, “I could not lie to myself. That was an important part of my vocation story, like my heart telling me where I should go.” 

He studied Psychology and Philosophy for his undergraduate degree at the university because deep in his heart, he believed that these streams would be helpful in the future if he could join the seminary. He even approached a Jesuit community of the Wisconsin Province, inquiring about the procedures for joining. However, they asked him to apply to the Jesuit Community in Hong Kong because he expressed his desire to work here. Undecided as yet, although he visited the Jesuit community in Hong Kong, he was uncertain of making a decision. Back in the US to complete his studies in 1983, Bishop Chow decided to apply to the Jesuits and wrote to the superior in Hong Kong and he was readily accepted.

Informing his parents and family of his decision was the next hurdle. “I wrote the longest letter I have ever written in my life to my parents and siblings,” he said. For him, it was important to have the permission and blessings of his parents to join the seminary. Two weeks later, when he realised that his father was going to talk to him over the phone, he rehearsed well and psychologically prepared himself for the conversation with the help of a friend and his wife! 

Bishop Chow recalled the conversation as if it happened just yesterday. “How is the weather there?” was his father’s first question. “Do you know why I called?” to which he replied in the negative. “You are old enough to make your own decisions. Rationally, I can accept that [you will enter the seminary], although emotionally, I do not like your decision at all,” said his father on the other end of the phone. “I already wanted to kneel to thank God because father’s approval was important.” 

In the Society of Jesus 

Joining the Jesuits in Hong Kong, he was sent to Ireland for his formation, spending four years in Dublin. He completed the novitiate and two years of licentiate in Philosophy with a thesis on Karl Marx. It was the time when Liberation Theology in vogue. In 1988 he returned to Hong Kong to pursue his Theology formation at the Holy Spirit Seminary. 

After completing his studies, he was ordained a deacon by John Baptist Cardinal Wu in 1993. His superiors permitted him to pursue his Masters’ degree in Organisational Development at Loyola University in Chicago before being ordained a priest by Cardinal Wu in 1995. Looking back on those years in formation, Bishop Chow acknowledges the amazing ways God has been preparing him to work for him. 

He was appointed as the Chaplain and teacher at Wah Yan College. Although he had the opportunity to pursue his PhD, he chose to remain with his students and support them during the uncertainties of 1997. Two years later, he returned to the US to pursue his doctoral studies in Human Development and Psychology at Harvard University. 

‘…evil is self-destructive in the long run. What is important is, we don’t join the evil to beat them’

The experience at the universities in the US gave him the idea for the ambitious project for a Liberal Arts college in Hong Kong. This stream is not provided in the universities in Hong Kong. “Our educational system does not foster independent thinking and critical thinking.” Although the project had to be scrapped, it gave him visibility among his confrères in the Chinese Province of the Jesuits, which led to his subsequent election as the provincial superior.  

“During my 14 years as a school supervisor, I faced many storms. But such controversies made me stronger and made my skin thicker,” the bishop noted, adding, that these experiences gave him the conviction that “evil is self-destructive in the long run. What is important is, we don’t join the evil to beat them.” 

Recalling his mission in the two Wah Yan Colleges he said, “Integrity is the core thing that makes the Church different in the world. People come to us not because we are shrewd as financiers or professionals, but because they still have hope that there is integrity in the Church. I am not saying that the Church is without any mistakes, but many good laypeople and pastors try their best to live up to what they believe in—the gospel. That is what I have strived for as school supervisor: to educate our young men with values and character.”  

Bishop Chow mused over the amazing ways through which God has been guiding him over these years noting: “If I had not been a supervisor to the two schools and the Liberal Arts college project, I would not have become a provincial. And if I had not become a provincial, the Vatican might not have noticed me.” 

His vegetarian lifestyle bears witnesses to his compassion towards people and nature. A cancer survivor himself, Bishop Chow has maintained a strict vegetarian diet since 2005. While studying in Ireland, there was a lot of meat to eat. “Vegetables served on the table were regarded as “certified dead on arrival,” he laughed. On his return to Hong Kong in 1989, he stopped eating meat. Since 2005, even fish has been out of his menu! “You look at a fish and the fish look at you. You feel compassion, and how could you eat it?” he asks.   

Concerns for the young people 

His responsibility for schools for over a decade and association with young people generated in him a special interest in their concerns. “Wagging your fingers at young people is not good. Young people want to be listened to, and they want us to listen to them,” the bishop said. To be with young people he identified two basic qualities: empathy and passive listening. Without empathy, you don’t understand a person. Empathy doesn’t mean that you have to agree with them. “If you are empathetic, you will be a little more sympathetic,” he said.

Bishop Chow envisages a practical approach in ministry towards the youth. A highly philosophical or spiritual approach wouldn’t do any good, but at the same time, he does not agree with the idea of having ‘your feet on the ground.’ “If both your feet are firm on the ground, you cannot move; you will be static. To move forward you need the balance of one foot on the ground and the other in the air,” he said.

“I want to encourage our young people to look far,” Bishop Chow said. He referred to the image of the giraffe in his Coat of Arms that looks beyond the shield. “The future of the world and the future of the Church belongs to the young people. If you are not happy with the present situation, don’t get stuck there. Instead, think of how would you want the world, the Church and Hong Kong to be in 30- or 40-year’s time? Then identify people who think similar and share the same views of life and work together. Set a vision for the future and plan for the goal,” he said.

On Synodality 

When queried about what changes he expected in his life as a bishop, he laughed: “I am not a bishop yet, so I don’t know!” With the pope’s call for synodality in the life of the Church, Bishop Chow hopes we will listen to one another and discern together for the mission. “If you are serious about Vatican II, people of God as the body of Christ, you cannot walk away from the call for synodality. Francis is pushing us to live the Vatican II,” he observed. 

“For example, the pandemic: it will not be with us forever. But we have to learn to live for and with each other. Are we helping the poor to receive the vaccination? If we fail to take care of the poor, the pandemic too will keep recurring. We need to learn to do that. The pandemic has taught us to love and care for one another,” he said.

The bishop further explained that “any changes could cause some amount of confusion and disturbances to the status quo. But if you do not go through those disturbances, how do you grow? Even in growing up [of a person], there is pain. When a person enters puberty, there are a lot of changes. Does anyone want to stop puberty so that you do not change? So also with the Church, we need to grow and therefore, those uncertainties are not always a bad thing.” 

He said, “We should always ask: what do you want to see in the future—a divided Church and divided world, or do we want everyone to be winners? The big problem the world faces today is that we are stuck in ideologies. Ideologies kill because the very definition of ideology is ‘I am right, and you are wrong.’ There is no dialogue. We need to learn to discern together. Discernment is a gift of the Holy Spirit. But today, not many people believe in the Holy Spirit! We are often over-dependent on ourselves; our convictions. They are not bad, but we need to open ourselves to be different and to be surprised by the Holy Spirit.” 

The bishop said, “We [priests or church leaders] always talk about ‘collaborators working with us.’ It should be the other way round. We have to learn to collaborate with laypeople. We are all collaborators; we listen to one another; we discern together for the mission. It depends on how far we go with synodality. I hope, we can go further. Indeed, it will be a complex process and will rock the boat, but it gives hope. And that’s how the Church grows.”

Clericalism is present not only among the priests. Sometimes the lay faithful in different associations and groups are more clerical than the priests, he said pointing out, “Titles and qualifications are required for the secular world or public occasions; not in the Body of Christ, because Christ is our only head. To stay healthy, it is important to do regular exercise and cut the fat!” 

He continued, “One could be very conservative but must not attack others for not being conservative. The Church should be like a big tree where birds of different kinds and colours could find their nest.”

Support Caritas and the Diocesan Building Fund

“People with love and appreciation send me congratulatory notes, gifts and books on my appointment as the Bishop of Hong Kong! I am grateful to them for their kindness, but they are not necessary! When do I have time to read that many books! Please write this down:

‘Please donate to Caritas or the Diocesan Building Fund if someone wants to send me gifts for my consecration. You pray for me. I think that will be a lot more meaningful. Caritas and the diocese need money. I am well taken care of by my family, good friends and some alumni who are close to me…’.”



"Me and my seminary": the seminary in Beijing celebrates 40 years of commitment to priesthood formation.

24th November 2021

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - "Me and my seminary":
the seminary in Beijing celebrates 40 years of commitment to priesthood formation

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - "Me and my seminary" is the theme of the competition organized for the seminarians of the diocese of Beijing, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Seminary. The competition took place on Sunday, November 21, solemnity of Christ King of the Universe, with a limited presence, due to sanitary measures, of priests, teachers and also lay people, who have always accompanied the vocational journey of seminarians through prayer and concrete help. The seminarians retraced the past, recounted the present and imagined the future, sharing certain themes such as "My personal history with my seminary", "The seminary in my eyes". ... "Glory to the Lord, do good to the people, at the service of the people": with this motto, the Seminary of the diocese of Beijing has covered a 40-year path in the formation of vocations, preparing priests for the diocese of Beijing but also for many other sister dioceses, especially in the peripheral and more remote areas. In fact, most of the seminarians who studied here are not from Beijing. Today, some have returned to their dioceses to carry out local evangelization, others have had the opportunity to continue their ongoing formation, even abroad, and still others are involved in the pastoral care of the parishes of Beijing.

In particular, the parishioners of the parish of Beijing dedicated to St. Michael - which was once the chapel of the seminary, then became a parish in 2003 due to the pastoral needs of the region, and also a place of pastoral formation for seminarians - consider seminarians as their children. From books to food, to fruit and vegetables: their offerings are not limited to the period of major feasts or to the Day for Vocations, but are daily, because they are convinced that the seminary is the heart of the diocese and the seminarians are the future of the Church.

During the last World Day of Prayer for Vocations, despite the fact that the physical presence of the faithful was impossible due to the pandemic, almost all the parish priests pledged to mobilize parishioners to spiritually and financially support the formation of vocations. In 1980, shortly after the reopening of the Church, the preparatory seminary of the diocese of Beijing resumed its activities in the small courtyard of the parish (then cathedral) of the Immaculate Conception, the church built by the Jesuit missionary, Father Matteo Ricci, after being closed for twenty years. She immediately welcomed a dozen young men eager to dedicate themselves to the Lord. In 1989 it was transferred to Beijing Cathedral, the Church of St. Savior, due to the increase in vocations, and again for the same reason, it was again transferred to another location in 1992.

Finally, in 2001, the construction and opening of a modern complex of 476 square meters. In addition to ordinary courses for seminarians, the seminary also hosts many formation courses for nuns and lay people, as well as university activities, since the area where the seminary is located is called the "university district" of Beijing.

According to the statistics provided by the seminary to Agenzia Fides, the seminary in Beijing has formed more than 320 seminarians, not counting those who are expected to graduate during the current year, with 187 priestly ordinations and three bishops.
There are currently 70 theology seminarians, 3 of whom are studying abroad.








November Updates 2021


November 2021


4 Updates


1. China releases 'kidnapped' Vatican-approved bishop.

2. CHINA - Promote lay catechists to be witnesses of Christ in today's society.

3. The Social Apostolate: An Important Ministry in our Chinese Province.

4. Chinese bishop who braved Cultural Revolution dies at 99.




China releases 'kidnapped' Vatican-approved bishop


12th November 2021

UCA News -

China releases 'kidnapped' Vatican-approved bishop

Bishop Shao had been detained several times for defying China's communist regime

UCA News reporter

A Vatican-approved Chinese bishop who was allegedly kidnapped by authorities more than two weeks ago has returned to his diocese, media reports say.

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Yongjia (Wenzhou) Diocese in Zhejiang province in eastern China has resurfaced, with church officials and the faithful offering thanksgiving prayers for his return.

It is still unknown when the 58-year-old bishop was released following his arrest on Oct. 25. The authorities reportedly said the bishop was taken for “tourism.”

Bishop Shao, ordained with a papal mandate as a coadjutor bishop in 2011, had been arrested six times prior to his latest arrest. He fell out with the government as his appointment was not approved by the state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).

His refusal to join and collaborate with state-run bodies led to a series of arrests and detentions.

Pontifical charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) reported in 2018 that Bishop Shao was arrested five times and subjected to isolation and indoctrination to communist ideology. Following his arrest in May 2017, he was detained for seven months.

The whereabouts of Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang in Henan province remains unknown. He was arrested in May with 10 priests and an unspecified number of seminarians.

In China, the arrest and detention of Catholic bishops who defy the communist regime are common. Such arrests are usually carried out ahead of important church events and feast days, observers say.

Bishop Shao was arrested shortly before All Souls' Day on Nov. 2.

Media reports claimed the authorities in Wenzhou installed iron barriers and blocked entry to the Catholic cemetery to restrict local Christians from attending prayers and paying respect to the dead.

For decades, the governance of the Catholic Church in China had been a major bone of contention between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), with Catholics divided between the patriotic and underground churches.

In 2018, the Vatican signed a secretive deal with China to end the discord over bishop appointments and division of Catholics. Initially signed for two years, the deal was renewed in October 2020.

Under the deal, six bishops have been ordained and the Vatican has approved seven Beijing-appointed bishops.

Despite the agreement, Chinese authorities continue to persecute Christians, particularly after the CCP adopted new regulations on religious affairs in May 2018.

The repressive regulations require all religious groups, organizations and clergy to be approved by the state and get permits to carry out their activities.




CHINA - Promote lay catechists to be witnesses of Christ in today's society.

16th November 2021

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - Promote lay catechists to be witnesses of Christ in today's society

Cheng Du (Agenzia Fides) - To train lay catechists so that they are "Christians of the new era" and witnesses of the Lord in today's Chinese society: these are the objectives of the VI Formation Course for lay catechists active in the 7 dioceses of Si Chuan Province, mainland China. Due to the pandemic, the number of participants was limited to 60. The course was held at the Major Seminary of Si Chuan (Catholic Academy of Theology and Philosophy of Si Chuan) from October 11 to 17.

In the light of Pope Francis' Apostolic Letter Antiquum Ministerium which establishes the ministry of the catechist, the participants attended lectures on various topics: catechism, Church teaching, liturgy and sacraments, Catholicism in China, Chinese cultural tradition and the inculturation of religion in China. Fr. Li Zheng Gang, from the diocese of Nanchong, presented Antiquum Ministerium, highlighting the important role played by catechists throughout the history of the Church in China and also in the life of the Church today, motivating those present to a greater sense of responsibility in evangelization. Father Huang Yi Liang, professor at the seminary, illustrated the contribution of missionaries to the development of liturgical life and the translation of the catechism into Chinese. Other priests discussed the seven sacraments and shared their pastoral and catechetical experience.
Sister Chiara Duan, from the Pastoral Formation Center of the Diocese of Xi Chang, accompanied the spiritual journey of prayer of the catechists.

Fr. Tong Heng Jiu, executive vice-rector of the Si Chuan Major Seminary, encouraged the participants by welcoming them with these words: "May the cradle of vocations that is the Seminary, arouse in you, catechists of basic ecclesial communities, the missionary zeal and kindles a strong desire to be Christians worthy of the name of disciples of Jesus".

Finally, he wished that catechists bring the fruits of their formation to the numerous brothers and sisters of the community, of society where they live and bear witness to their faith. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides).



The Social Apostolate: An Important Ministry in our Chinese Province

26th October 2021

Social Justice and Ecology Secretatiat
Jesuit Curia, Rome



I am Matthew Hsu, SJ. I am the assistant of Chinese Provincial for Social Apostolate. There are 3 institutes under the Chinese Province, Casa Ricci, Rerum Novarum,andHsinchu Social Service Center. I studied social work when I was a student in the university, though I didn’t practice it later. I think that is why my Provincial wants me to be his assistant for Social Apostolate. I did my tertianship in 2018. Before my tertianship, I stayed in a parish as an assistant pastor and later I was appointed as the director of Apostleship of Prayer, now called Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network, in Taiwan. I was not quite satisfied with just doing pastoral work in the parishes. During the 30-day Spiritual Exercises, I prayed for my future work to serve God where He wants me to serve. Social apostolate was one of my options.


I felt that I have the desire to dedicate myself to help people who are poor and marginalized. I wrote about this to my Provincial and he assigned me as his assistant for Social Apostolate because the person who was in charge of the work was old and wanted to retire.


Before I became the assistant for Social Apostolate I had already been a board member of our Jesuit Social Apostolate Center for several years. I found an interesting thing; the Social Apostolate in the Chinese Province began with the efforts of individual Jesuits, who saw the need of the Society and started the work by themselves. They dedicated themselves to the social apostolate with the Ignatian charisma and formed a very dynamic team to work together with them. They did a lot of wonderful service for the people in need in the past. However, after the founder retired, our Province had to see if it would continue the work and set up the governance for the institute. In fact, nowadays, Jesuits just stay in the board and rarely participate in the direct services. Furthermore, some of the directors are even non-Catholics and they are not very familiar with the Society of Jesus. The task for these social service centers is to keep their identity and their relationship with the Society of Jesus, and to use its Ignatian charisma to become a sign of God’s mercy in the Chinese society.


I am grateful that the Society of Jesus has come out with the Universal Apostolic Preferences (UAPs), 2019-2029. The UAPs confirm the social apostolate as an important ministry of the Society of Jesus. Besides serving directly people in need, the UAPs also remind us that the path we seek to stand with the poor is one that promotes social justice and the change of economic, political, and social structures that generate injustice. Finally, they also emphasize that we have to deepen our collaborationamong Jesuits and with our companions in mission; together with our collaboration among the ministries and apostolic units, other bodies in the Church, and all the persons and institutions. All these things are like lighthouses that help me find the direction to work on social apostolate in the future. I hope we Jesuits in our province can really follow the spirit of UAPs and continue to serve people in most need.



Chinese bishop who braved Cultural Revolution dies at 99

18th October 2021

UCA News -

Chinese bishop who braved Cultural Revolution dies at 99

Bishop Stephen Xiangtai Yang of Handan spent 15 years in labor camps until 1980 for defying China's communist regime

UCA News reporter

Retired Catholic Bishop Stephen Xiangtai Yang of Handan Diocese in Hebei province in northern China, who was persecuted and forced to spend years in labor camps during the Cultural Revolution, has died at the age of 99.

He died from complications from old-age diseases on Oct. 13, according to a notice from the state-controlled Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC).

The prelate was admitted to a local hospital after his health condition deteriorated. He had respiratory problems and inflammatory swelling of the body, leaving him unable to eat and sleep for days.

In a statement, Handan Diocese paid tribute to Bishop Yang.

“For 72 years, Monsignor Yang has demonstrated strong faithfulness to the Lord, kindness to all, a life of simplicity and relentless dedication to his flock. Now that he has completed his journey, we request clergy, religious and faithful to pray for eternal rest of his departed soul,” the statement read.

Bishop Yang’s death brings end to the life of an extraordinary churchman who stood firm and never gave up amid persecution from the communist regime.

Stephen Yang Xiangtai was born in Wu’an City in Hebei province on Nov. 17, 1922.

He studied at the major seminary in Kaifeng in neighboring Henan province and was ordained a priest on Aug. 27, 1949. After serving as a parish priest in Kaifeng for a year, he returned to his hometown and preached in Wu’an for 16 years.

Father Yang was arrested in 1954. However, he was released following trial and returned to his ministry.

In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, he was rearrested, faced a trial in 1970 and sentenced to 15 years in prison. He was sent to labor camps in Quzhou city, Handan brick factory and Tangshan salt factory.

During the time of Deng Xiaoping, Father Yang was released on March 15, 1980, and acquitted of all charges.

For the next 16 years, Father Yang served in various districts in Hebei including Handan, Shexian, Wu’an and Cixian, which later became part of the Diocese of Handan.

He became the rector of the diocesan seminary and chaplain of the Congregation of the Consolation of the Holy Spirit.

On Nov. 30, 1996, he was ordained auxiliary bishop by his predecessor Bishop Peter Chen Bolu and was appointed Bishop of Handan on Sept. 17, 1999.

Bishop Yang didn’t want to be tagged as an “underground bishop,” though he was ordained with the Vatican's mandate, and he also refused to give in and join state-sanctioned church bodies despite oppression from the Chinese regime, church sources say.

On June 21, 2011, he secretly ordained his successor, coadjutor Bishop Joseph Sun Jigen of Handan, with the Vatican's approval. In retaliation, the authorities arrested two priests and put Bishop Sun in custody but released him three days later.

Following his detention, Bishop Yang suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized for days.

Bishop Yang denounced cross demolitions by Chinese authorities in the name of so-called Sinicization of religions and supported strong protests by priests against cross demolitions in Wenzhou in Zhejiang province in 2015.



October Updates 2021


October 2021


6 Updates


1. 14th International Verbiest Conference : Recordings.

2. Big heart and wide horizon, the bishop-elect’s coat of arms

3. China accelerates Sinicization of Catholic Church

4. Macau Catholic university to admit students from mainland China.

5. Maryknoll Sisters celebrate 100 years of ministry in China.

6. New Bishop ordained in China.




14th International Verbiest Conference : Recordings.


Forwarded from
The Ferdinand Verbiest Institute
Leuven, Belgium

Dear friends,

First of all a heartfelt word of thanks for being involved in our 14th International Verbiest Conference. During these Corona-times, it was a challenge for all of us to organize this conference completely digitally, and to participate in it. We learned a lot and there are still things we need to improve, but for now we can look back with quite a satisfied feeling. The conference was successful and this was thanks to all of you!

Now as mentioned we would send you the recordings of the conference. (We had to fix some technical issues). But finally, via the following youtube-link below you can rewatch all the 40 recordings of the keynote speakers, the lectures and Q&A. If there are any problems with opening the link please let us know and we will try our best to solve this.

And hopefully we will see each other again (physically) in our 15th International Verbiest Conference in Leuven!

With kind greetings,
The Ferdinand Verbiest Institute




Big heart and wide horizon, the bishop-elect’s coat of arms


13th October 2021




HONG KONG (SE): The Diocese of Hong Kong has revealed the coat of arms of bishop-elect Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, which includes a giraffe symbolising a big heart and a wide horizon, the Tsing-Ma Bridge which shows the importance of connecting people, and a logo in the centre symbolising unity in plurality. As a Jesuit priest, Father Chow also uses the symbol of the Society of Jesus IHS along with the Jesuit motto “Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam” [For the Greater Glory of God].


Speaking about giraffe, Father Chow said many students of Wan Yan College learned about his story about the animal: that to pump enough blood to its head, a giraffe has a big heart, which symbolises a broad and generous mind. Its long neck enables it to have a wider vision. “Short-sightedness can cause fear in oneself. Looking with vision can help one calm down,” he said. “I received some pictures of giraffes from students which were posted in my office in Wan Yan College.” The uniqueness of the giraffe in his coat of arms is that it its head extends above the shield, showing an eagerness to widen its vision.

The dove, a symbol of the Holy Spirit, entering the upper right of the shield, means the Word became flesh in the history of the salvation of mankind. The dove with a seven-coloured olive branch is derived from the story about Noah’s ark in Genesis representing the rainbow covenant established between God and people after the great flood.

The logo in the centre symbolises unity in plurality and the connecting lines in different colours represent different kinds of people being together with their uniqueness respected, differences appreciated and common concerns found for cooperation. 

The Tsing Ma Bridge appears in the lower portion of the shield. Father Chow said the mission of the Church is to form a bridge for different parties to meet one another, which was also what the early Jesuit missionary to China, Father Matteo Ricci did. 

“The bridge itself is for people to step on. Without people walking, the bridge is not useful any more,” Father Chow said. The water flowing under the bridge symbolises the flow of time and the continuing mission of the Church to serve as a bridge at the same time.

Father Chow hopes that the coat of arms will show his pastoral concerns and invites people to keep praying for the diocese and for him.



China accelerates Sinicization of Catholic Church

5th October 2021

UCA News -

China accelerates Sinicization of Catholic Church

Catholics are encouraged to adhere to the 'one direction, one road and one flag' principles of the Chinese Communist Party

UCA News reporter

China’s communist government is seemingly accelerating the process of Sinicization of the Catholic Church to implement in spirit and action the policies of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) put forth by President Xi Jinping.

Two recent events in Shandong and Hebei provinces organized by the state-controlled Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) highlighted the willingness of church leaders to put the CCP’s Sinicization policy into practice.

In its academic sense, Sinicization of religion refers to the indigenization of religious faith, practice and ritual in Chinese culture and society, according to the Lausanne Movement.

However, in reality, Sinicization is based on a profoundly political ideology that aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the CCP.

On Sept. 24, Catholics from two churches in Zibo city in Shandong province attended an event called “Hundred Sermons” that sought to explain the instructions of President Xi on religious activities, promotion of Sinicization in the Church and how to adapt to the socialist society, according to a report on the BCCCC website.

Some 30 church members and priests attended the program at the Zhangdian Church in Zibo where Bishop Joseph Yang Yongqiang, a Vatican-approved bishop and vice-chairman of the BCCCC, delivered a speech.

Father Wang Yutong, deputy director and secretary-general of the Zibo Catholic Patriotic Association, made a presentation titled "Personal Experience of the Sinicization of the Church” based on his 30 years of experience in parish management, evangelism and daily activities through the association.

The priest concluded his speech by calling for Chinese Catholicism to carry on the legacies of pioneering leaders like Bishop Zong Huaide and follow the principles of “one direction, one road, one flag” — to adhere to the Sinicization of religion, the path of independence and a self-run church, and the flag of patriotism and love for religion.

The presentation garnered applause from the audience. Bishop Yang praised Father Wang for the inspirational speech and urged church members and priests to adhere to “one direction, one road and one flag” principles.

Meanwhile, 18 key members of the CCPA from various provinces and cities visited Xibaipo village, a prominent communist revolutionary site in Shijiazhuang city in Hebei province from Sept. 27-29.

The educational visit was based on the theme "Take the Red Footprints and Inherit the Red Spirit" that intended to cultivate feelings of love for the Chinese Communist Party, patriotism and socialism as part of the Sinicization of Catholicism.

Xibaipo village is considered a sacred site for the CCP as it was once the seat of the party's Central Committee from where Mao Zedong, the founding father of communist China, led three major battles in Liaoshen, Huaihai and Pingjin against nationalist forces.

The CCPA delegation visited former sites of the Central Committee, the United Front Work Department, Second Plenary Session of the Seventh Central Committee of the CCP, and the Central Military Commission. They also visited the war room used by communist revolutionaries such as Mao Zedong, Zhu De and Zhou Enlai, and the Xibaipo Memorial Hall.

A guide accompanied the group, who also watched historical exhibitions while carefully listening to heroic deeds of the revolutionary martyrs and their great achievements leading to “the birth of New China.”

The group also visited Catholic organizations in Hebei including the Catholic Theological Seminary, Xinde Charity Foundation and Xinde Society and had a meeting with Bishop Franics An Shuxin of Baoding as well as exchange meetings with priests and parishioners.

China is officially an atheist republic but it recognizes the legal entity of five religions — Catholicism, Protestantism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. For years, the authorities have strictly controlled state-sanctioned religious groups and persecuted those adhering to unregistered and unrecognized groups such as the Church of Almighty God, Falun Gong and even underground Catholics who refuse to join state-approved bodies or pledge allegiance to the CCP.

US-based Christian group Open Doors lists China 17th among 50 countries where Christians face severe forms of persecution.



Macau Catholic university to admit students from mainland China.

20th September 2021

UCA News -

Macau Catholic university to admit students from mainland China

University of Saint Joseph can recruit mainland students for postgraduate programs excluding theology and philosophy

UCA News reporter

China’s communist government has allowed the Catholic-run University of Saint Joseph (USJ) in Macau to enroll students from the mainland for the first time in its 25-year history.

USJ can now recruit students from the mainland for postgraduate programs in architecture, business administration, information systems and science, reported Jornal O-Clarim , the Catholic weekly of Macau Diocese.

However, it is restricted from enrolling students for theology or philosophy courses.

The university operates under Macau Diocese and is affiliated with the Catholic University of Portugal in Lisbon.

USJ rector Father Stephen Morgan announced the new development, stating that permission from China’s Ministry of Education came on Sept. 9.

There are four universities in Macau, a former Portuguese colony and now a special administrative region (SAR) of China. Until now, only the University of Saint Joseph was barred from accepting students from the mainland.

“I was delighted to receive the formal notification from the Ministry of Education of the Central People’s Government of the permission for the University of Saint Joseph to recruit students on a trial basis for the current academic year and beyond to our postgraduate programs in architecture, business administration, information systems and science,” Father Morgan said.

He was thankful to Macau’s Chief Executive Ho Iat Seng, Social Affairs and Culture Secretary Ao Ieong U and the staff of the Education and Youth Development Bureau for “the constant advocacy of our case.”

“To them in particular, I want to say thank you on behalf of the entire USJ community — staff, students, alumni and friends. The granting of this permission would not have been possible without the support and assistance of the director and members of the liaison office of the Central People’s Government in Macao and the encouragement of the commissioner for foreign affairs and his office,” the priest said.

The rector said USJ will closely follow government regulations concerning the permit.

“I am very conscious of the responsibility that the Central People’s Government has placed in USJ through this permission, and want to give every assurance of our gratitude and sincerity. We will closely observe the detailed regulations concerning this permit and will spare no effort in seeking to repay the trust and confidence of the Ministry of Education as we seek to demonstrate that we are a university in, of and for Macao, in of and for China,” he said.

Father Morgan said USJ has developed close working relationships with various higher education and research institutes in mainland China.

“Those institutions recognize the very special character of USJ as a unique platform within the Greater Bay Area for cooperation between Chinese and Portuguese-speaking countries and as an example of Macao as a base for the harmonious exchange between the culture of the East and the West. The permission we have now received holds out for us the very real opportunity of deepening those collaborations in concrete ways that had not thus far been possible,” he added.

Despite the restrictions, the permission is a breakthrough as the authorities realized that “Catholic universities are not moved by a desire to proselytize but to develop knowledge and promote an intelligent and fraternal dialogue between different cultures,” Father Peter Stilwell, rector of the university from 2012 to 2020, told The Tablet .

“USJ is the only university that, with its connection to Portugal and the Western style of teaching, truly preserves the tradition of higher learning in Macau,” he said.

Macau, a gambling and gaming hub, was under Portuguese rule from 1557 to 1999. It has an estimated population of about 700,000 on the 33 square kilometer island.

Macau Diocese has about 30,000 Catholics in nine parishes.



Maryknoll Sisters celebrate 100 years of ministry in China.

16th September 2021

UCA News -

Maryknoll Sisters celebrate 100 years of ministry in China

There are eight Maryknoll Sisters currently ministering in Hong Kong

By: Mark Pattison, Catholic News ServiceMark Pattison, Catholic News Service


It was 100 years ago -- on Sept. 12, 1921 -- when the Maryknoll Sisters assigned its first group of sisters to China, the order's first mission.

One sister has been there nearly half that time, 49 years to be exact. To mark the 100th anniversary, Maryknoll Sister Michelle Reynolds spoke on a panel detailing the situation in China during the sisters' general council in Maryknoll, New York.

"Many of the sisters were asking what is happening in Hong Kong," where she's ministered since 1972, Sister Reynolds told Catholic News Service in a Sept. 13 phone interview during a break at the general council.

Sister Reynolds, from Saugus, Massachusetts, said she was attracted to Maryknoll for two reasons: Her father always had a copy of Maryknoll magazine around the house, and her own inclination toward religious education led her to discern a vocation with Maryknoll.

She has been a member of the order for 60 years, including four years teaching in New York City's Chinatown district.

As with seemingly nearly everything else in life and society, so much has changed since she first was assigned to Hong Kong.

When she first went, the people Sister Reynolds worked with were "in a little village parish," she said.

"Many of them had been refugees out of mainland China. They were extremely poor. Their living conditions were little one-room cottages. My first 10 years I worked in that parish," Sister Reynolds said. "But the people were very strong as a community and very close to the point that even now, after all those years, I will have contact with many of them."

From that village parish, Sister Reynolds moved to an area where the government had "reclaimed the land and demolished all their homes so they were all relocated into high-rises -- and so I moved with them, and continued in the parish for a couple of years and so got more or less stable," she said.

"Then there was a request for someone to work in the 'new territories,'" living and working close to Hong Kong's border with mainland China, Sister Reynolds added. "For myself, I was initially open to whatever the needs were. So that's why I said when I moved out to the new territories, it was a whole area that was developing. So I was happy to be there."

She remembers fondly the "pastoral sisters' association" of Maryknollers and nuns from other religious institutes ministering on Hong Kong.

"We used to make trips kind of regularly up to (mainland) China. We would connect with other religious communities there. We were a kind of support group, whether they needed support for their schools or what have you," she told CNS.

There are eight Maryknoll Sisters currently ministering in Hong Kong, although one has been stuck on the Chinese mainland for the past year due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. Sister Reynolds said there also are five Maryknoll priests present, including one who teaches at a university in northern China.

"There was more communication back and forth with the pastoral groups. But now a lot of that has been stopped because of COVID," she said.

As for her own communication methods, "I speak Cantonese and I've studied Mandarin, so sometimes I can follow conversations. But when I open my mouth Cantonese comes out instead."

Now, at age 80, Sister Reynolds is retired. If you can call it that.

"Being retired, I'm responsible for a diocesan building. We have groups coming for activities," she explained. "We are open to the village using the space. We have a little chapel for occasional liturgies. We've got catechumen classes. Besides that, because of my previous connections with Catholic schools in the area, I'm on the board of the Independent School Management Committee."

"That's being retired!" Sister Reynolds said with a hearty laugh.

She has been on U.S. soil since July, and expects to return to Hong Kong in mid-October.

Beyond the changes in ministry over the past half-century, much has changed in Hong Kong itself in just the past few years.

"The situation has very much deteriorated" since then, she said. The season of mass demonstrations in Hong Kong over a proposed extradition law and related issues "was a very difficult period," she said. "When I left, things were still very much in a state of turmoil."




New Bishop ordained in China.

8th September 2021

Vatican News

New Bishop ordained in China

Father Francis Cui Qingqi, O.F.M., is the sixth bishop nominated by Pope Francis under the terms of the 2018 Provisional Agreement between the Holy See and China.
By: Vatican News

The Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, has confirmed that Father Francis Cui Qingqui, O.F.M., received episcopal ordination on Wednesday, in Wuhan, Hubei province. Pope Francis named Fr Cui as Bishop of Hankou/Wuhan on 23 June 2021; he is the sixth Chinese Bishop appointed and ordained within the framework of the Provisional Agreement on the appointment of Bishops in China.

The Provisional Agreement was signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018 by representatives of the Holy See and China with the shared hope of fostering a path of institutional dialogue and contributing positively to the life of the Catholic Church in China, to the good of the Chinese people, and to peace in the world.

Renewed for another two years in 2020, the Agreement does not directly address diplomatic relations between the Holy See and China, the legal status of the Chinese Catholic Church or relations between the clergy and the authorities of the country. Rather, it is concerned exclusively with the process of appointing bishops, with the pastoral objective of allowing the Catholic faithful to have bishops who are in full communion with the Successor of Peter and at the same time are recognised by the authorities of the People's Republic of China.





August Updates 2021


August 2021



7 Updates


1. Church proud of Chinese Catholics’ ‘witness of faith.

2. Archbishop spells out 'drama' of China's Catholics, communists.

3. Mourning in the Episcopate: His Exc. Mgr. Matthew Cao Xiangde dies.

4. Msgr. Marengo: "We must preach the Gospel with a whisper”.

5. Chinese diocese gets new bishop under Sino-Vatican deal.

6. Time for Asian churches to help flood-hit Germans.

7. Chinese Catholic writer detained six months ago remains in jail.




Church proud of Chinese Catholics’ ‘witness of faith

20th August 2021

Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong


VATICAN (CNS): “We are proud of the witness of faith they give. We hope that they may always be good citizens and good Catholics. That is, that they may express this dual dimension, especially in their concrete lives,” Vatican secretary of state, Pietro Cardinal Parolin, said in an interview with the Italian news site, La Voce del Nordest [Voice of the Northeast], published on August 12.

The Church “accompanies them with so many prayers,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Asked about the current status of diplomatic relations with China, the cardinal, who was in the northern Italian province of Trentino, said that “now we are always in a phase of dialogue.”

In October, the Vatican and the Chinese government extended a provisional agreement, signed in 2018, regarding the appointment of bishops.

The text, which has never been made public, outlines procedures for ensuring Catholic bishops are elected by the Catholic community in China and approved by the pope before their ordinations and installations, according to news reports at the time.

Cardinal Parolin said that Sino-Vatican dialogue “was interrupted” by the Covid-19 pandemic. While the stalled dialogue has “been difficult,” the cardinal expressed his hope that discussions will resume soon will “deal with many other issues that are on the table that concern the life of the Catholic Church in China.”

The Vatican secretary of state was also asked about comments he made in a 2019 interview with the Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, in which he said “the West should apologise” for its criticisms against Pope Francis.

Among the harshest critics of the Vatican’s agreement with China was the administration of former United States president, Donald Trump, including former secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. Prior to the agreement’s renewal, Pompeo tweeted that “the Vatican endangers its moral authority, should it renew the deal.”

In the interview, Cardinal Parolin said that Western criticism of Pope Francis resembled “that of the eldest son in the parable of the prodigal son who sees the love of the father for his brother as an injustice.”

The cardinal said, “The West is a bit like that son who has always lived closer to the father, but today no longer knows how to enjoy this closeness.” He added, “Today it is right to give more attention to those who in the past have had less, such as the people of Asia, who have known the Christian message less than others: in China only one inhabitant out of four knows who Jesus Christ is.”

He said, “The West should understand this kind of ‘geopolitics’ more.” Explaining his words, Cardinal Parolin told La Voce del Nordest that criticisms against the pope “may lead to not understanding or easy acceptance” of his message.

“I believe that’s what I meant, in the true sense that the pope is showing a path—especially with ‘Fratelli Tutti’—after the pandemic that can truly help us to get out of the sand traps in which our society finds itself in and start to build a new world, a better world,” he said.



Archbishop spells out 'drama' of China's Catholics, communists

19th August 2021

UCA News -

Archbishop Hon cites three major players in each stage: the communist regime, the Chinese Church and the Vatican

Catholic News Service

The ongoing "drama" between Chinese Catholics and the nation's communist leaders has three stages, said Chinese Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, the Vatican's nuncio to Greece.

The current stage in the drama, in effect since 2013, is one of "shrinking and getting confused," Archbishop Hon said.

"As a result of the drama, people feel so disoriented, disconnected," Archbishop Hon said in his recent keynote address to the 28th international conference of the US-China Catholic Association, held at Jesuit-run Santa Clara University.

Archbishop Hon cited three major players in each stage of the drama: the communist regime, the Church in China and the Vatican.

The first stage he characterized as "resisting and divided," a period lasting from 1949 to 1980, during which "the Church is also divided." Many Catholic leaders were arrested earlier during this period, Archbishop Hon said, as the Church was being split into underground and state-recognized communities "hostile to each other."

That was the regime's intent: "divide the people, and easy for control" Archbishop Hon said, while China continued to deride Vatican "imperialism" and offer "carrots and sticks" to Catholics, depending on how much one wanted to do the communist government's bidding.

At this time, the Vatican was "trying to normalize the diplomatic relationship" with China, he noted. "The Holy See encouraged the Catholics to remain faithful, stating that an independent church cannot be the Catholic Church," Archbishop Hon added.

The next period, between 1980 and 2013, was one for the Church of "growing by reconciliation," he said. "The two divided communities started taking up a conciliatory attitude toward one another," Archbishop Hon noted.

The Chinese government encouraged reform and "opening up," although its policy for religious groups remained unchanged, the archbishop said. The Vatican sought to establish dialogue with the regime and promote reconciliation between the underground and government-recognized communities.

In 2013, Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, took their current offices within a day of each other, the pope on March 13 and Xi on March 14. The two leaders exchanged letters of congratulation.

Under Xi, China spoke of the dream of a stronger China, Archbishop Hon said. "There are more sticks to the underground communities and more carrots to those pro-Sinicization," he added, as the regime "tightens control and pulls down crosses" in China.

But Archbishop Hon said in this period, the Vatican got "blinded" by abandoning a well-established consultation structure regarding China. He said because of its diplomacy with China, "The underground communities have felt abandoned by the Holy See."

"Instead of showing light," Archbishop Hon said, the Vatican "diminished the light of the last teaching of the Church and the martyrdom of many Catholics."

He compared the current situation to the outbreak of Covid-19.

He said the 2018 Vatican agreement on the appointment of Chinese bishops — the details of which have not been published — combined with the December 2018 Vatican recognition that two previously excommunicated bishops would head Chinese dioceses turned into a virus.

When, in 2019, the Vatican published pastoral guidelines telling bishops and priests in China that they must follow their own consciences in deciding whether to register with the government, "the virus got mutated," he said.

Archbishop Hon said: "This drama presents itself as a tense play of struggle between church and state, faith and politics, conscience and power. The above is a panoramic view without depth. If we come to know the persons who are involved in the drama, then we probably may acquire deeper insights and different perspectives to understand the Church in China."

"What kind of person I would like to look for in this tense play? A reed swayed by the wind? Or a man for all seasons? I prefer the latter," Archbishop Hon said. "Some of them were the martyrs who shed their blood, others gave equally valid witnesses with their life."



Mourning in the Episcopate: His Exc. Mgr. Matthew Cao Xiangde dies

9th August 2021

Agenzia Fides -

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - On Friday, July 9, 2021, at 4.30 pm, His Exc. Mgr. Matthew Cao Xiangde died at the age of 92.

The Prelate, who lived in the province of Zhejiang, was born on September 16, 1929 in Tangzhen, Pudong New Area, in the municipality of Shanghai.
In 1950 he entered the "St. Vincent de Paul" regional Seminary in Jiaxing and moved to the Beijing Seminary two years later.

He continued his studies and pastoral practice in Haimen, but he was ordained only in November 1985 by His Exc. Mgr. Luigi Jin Luxian of Shanghai, after the Cultural Revolution. After his priestly ordination, he was able to perform his priestly ministry in Hangzhou cathedral and in the parishes of Xiaoshan and Jinhua.

On June 25, 2000 he was elected and ordained bishop, illegitimate because without papal mandate. Later, he asked for forgiveness. The Prelate asked the Holy See to be legitimated; this was granted on June 8, 2008 but without jurisdiction.

The funeral of Archbishop Cao Xiangde was celebrated on July 12, 2021 with a reduced participation of the faithful due to the pandemic in progress.



Msgr. Marengo: "We must preach the Gospel with a whisper”

7th August 2021

Agenzia Fides -

Ulaanbataar (Agenzia Fides) - "The ministry of the bishop in Mongolia is, in my view, very similar to the episcopal ministry of the early Church: we know how the apostles in the early days of Christianity testified to the risen Christ in conditions of absolute minority compared to the places and cultures where they stayed. For me it is a great responsibility that brings me closer to the true meaning of the mission", said the Prefect Apostolic of Ulaanbaatar, Giorgio Marengo, about his experiences in the Asian country and about the evangelization work of the church there.

Father Giorgio Marengo, who was ordained bishop only last August, came to Mongolia in 2003 with his confreres, the Consolata missionaries, to provide pastoral care to the small community of Arvaiheer in the Uvurkhangai region and to support them with initiatives and activities based on people's needs and problems: after-school childcare, public showers, a handicraft project for women, a day therapy center and a group for men with alcohol problems. "It is a complex and sometimes hard work, but it does not discourage these true 'Shepherds with the smell of sheep', the missionaries who live here and testify to the Gospel", said Msgr. Marengo.

The Mongolian Church is young and small and lives on the periphery, so to speak, but it lovingly cares for 1,300 faithful out of a total population of three and a half million. The small number is inversely proportional to the commitment and dedication, based on brotherhood and harmony to the Christian roots of Syrian origin that have existed here since the 10th century and were, so to speak, "frozen" during the Mongol Empire.

"For many centuries", Father Giorgio explains to Fides, "Christianity was not actively lived, which is why today, at a popular level, it is believed that it is something new, which has come from abroad in recent years. Today there are eight parishes and about sixty missionaries of different nationalities and Congregations who meet regularly to discuss problems together, coordinate activities and plan new initiatives. In 2022 we will celebrate 30 years of rebirth of the Catholic Church in this great Asian country".

"As for those who have received baptism - emphasizes the religious - it is necessary to continue the work of accompaniment and faith-building in order to help the believers grow in the faith: mission begins, above all, with deep listening to the Lord who sends us, the Spirit who dwells in us and shapes us, and the people to whom we are sent". The missionaries are men and women of profound spirituality, who from communion with Christ, receive the necessary wisdom used to empathize with the community: "For example, it is important to learn the language - observes the Bishop - or to refine the tools that allow to establish a relationship with people, trying to understand what their points of reference, history, cultural and religious roots are for them.

There is an expression - says Msgr. Marengo - which I think may well reflect the nature of our missionary commitment that I heard from Msgr. Thomas Menamparampil, Archbishop Emeritus of Guwahati, India: we must whisper the Gospel to the heart of Asia. I like to apply this image to Mongolia: the proclamation of the Word of the Gospel, with a whisper, is therefore a constant work of evangelization that requires - he concludes - to enter into a authentic relationship with people; and, by virtue of this authentic relationship of friendship, we can share what is most precious to us: faith in our Lord Jesus Christ". (ES-PA) (Agenzia Fides, 7/8/2021)

Video of the interview with Msgr. Marengo: ->



Chinese diocese gets new bishop under Sino-Vatican deal

28th July 2021

UCA News -

The new bishop worked with the state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China since 1998

UCA News reporter

Chinese Catholics witnessed the consecration of the fifth bishop under a deal that China's communist government agreed with the Vatican three years ago.

Father Anthony Li Hui was ordained as the coadjutor bishop of Pingliang diocese at Gansu province in northwestern China on July 28, approved by both the state and the Church.

The 49-year-old Bishop Li is the fifth bishop ordained under the China-Vatican provisional agreement signed in 2018, church sources told UCA News.

The Sino-Vatican deal, whose provisions are still not made public, reportedly allows the pope to approve and veto bishops approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Initially signed for two years, the agreement was renewed for another two years in October 2020.

Bishop Li is the third bishop consecrated after the renewal of the agreement. His election as the coadjutor bishop of Pingliang was announced on July 24, 2020.

The Vatican News said Pope Francis made the nomination on 11 January 2021.

The consecration ceremony took place at the cathedral of Pingliang presided by Bishop Joseph Ma Yinglin of Kunming, president of China's state-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC).

Bishop Nicolas Han Jide of Pingliang and Bishop Joseph Guo Jincai of Chengde, BCCCC’s vice-president were concelebrants.

Bishop Joseph Han Zhihai of Lanzhou, as well as some 200 Catholics including 30 priests, 20 nuns and representatives from the BCCCC, and Gansu province joined the ceremony, according to the BCCCC report on its website.

Representatives of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), the state-run organization that oversees China's Catholics, also attended the function, it said.

Father Yang Yu, deputy secretary-general of the BCCCC, read out the approval letter during the ceremony, the report said.

Born in Mei County, Shaanxi Province, in 1972, Bishop Li joined the Pingliang diocesan preparatory seminary in 1989 and later studied at the national seminary in Beijing in 1992. He was ordained priest in 1996. He later studied the Chinese language at Renmin University in Beijing until 1998.

Since 1998, he has worked at the secretariat office of the BCCCC and CCPA in Beijing. He has been the secretary of BCCCC’s presidents till he was elected coadjutor bishop of Pingliang.



Time for Asian churches to help flood-hit Germans

22nd July 2021

UCA News -

Asian churches can return the favor of decades of German Catholics' generosity through prayer and solidarity

By: Rock Ronald Rozario

The deadly flooding in Germany has left a trail of devastation with some 160 people killed, more than 170 missing and thousands of homes flooded.

The intensity and scale of the deluge that shocked climate scientists was a result of record-breaking rainfall of 148 liters per square meter within 48 hours in wide areas of the Rhine river basin, nearly double the average 80 liters of rainfall in July.

Other countries including Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Luxembourg also took a hit as floodwater and mudslides leveled homes and buildings.

The disaster came about two weeks after a deadly heatwave swept through Canada and the US when temperatures soared to 49.6 degrees Celsius.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is to retire in September after 16 years, has been touring the most affected regions to monitor and coordinate the humanitarian response to devastated communities.

Along with the government, the Catholic Church in Germany has joined the humanitarian response and in some places Catholic groups were among the first responders to the crisis aftermath.

The devastation and loss of lives have triggered shock and sympathy from across the globe including from Catholics in Asia and other parts of the world.

Pope Francis offered prayers and expressed his closeness with the flood victims of Germany.

"His Holiness remembers in prayer those who lost their lives and expresses to their families his deepest sympathy," Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican secretary of state, said in a telegram message to German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"He prays especially for those who are still missing, for the injured and for those who have suffered damage or lost their property due to the forces of nature."

However, such an emotional call for prayer and solidarity with flood-hit Germans has not resonated strongly in Asian churches, most of whom are regular beneficiaries of charitable funding from the German Church and church-based donor agencies.

The Catholic Church in Germany, one of the richest in the world, is well known globally for its charity and philanthropy. It is a major contributor to many organizations and charities linked to the Vatican, the administrative headquarters of the global Church.

A principal source of income for the German Church is the voluntary church tax and government donations for operating costs. It also has sizable earnings from other sources such as fees, social projects and churches' own wealth.

Media reports suggest the income has been declining in recent years as the number of churchgoers and practicing Catholics drop in Germany as well as in other parts of Europe.

A record 272,771 people left the Catholic Church in Germany in 2019, and the number of baptisms and weddings taking place in churches also dropped sharply, Duetsche Welle, Germany’s national broadcaster, reported last year.

The draining of church members is not a new phenomenon. Church leaders in Germany have taken note of the crisis and some described it as “a financial cross” for churches.

"The Church's decreasing income and increasing expenses have led to a clear deficit," the late Cardinal Joachim Meisner, former archbishop of Cologne, lamented in 2004.

While churches in Germany and other parts of Europe lose members fast, churches in parts of Asia and Africa continue to experience a springtime of growth.

Yet the German Church and its pastoral donor agencies, including Caritas Germany, Misereor, Missio Aachen, Missio Munich, Renovabis, Aveniat, Pontifical Mission Societies Germany and Aid to the Church in Need, funnel millions of dollars to relatively poorer churches in Asia, Africa and Latin America every year.

In fact, it would be extremely challenging for minority churches and church groups in Asian nations to carry out religious, pastoral and social activities, including formation and training of clergy, religious and laypeople, charitable services to poor communities, socioeconomic development, media activities and renovation and construction of churches, without funding from generous Germans.

In times of humanitarian crises triggered by natural disasters like cyclones and flooding and conflicts and persecution targeting Christians in Asia, Catholics in Germany and Europe are among the first to reach out with generous donations, sympathy and prayers.

Most churches in Asia are minority except for those in the Philippines and Timor-Leste. Due to a lack of resources — economic and non-economic — it will take many years before they can expect to become self-reliant.

However, there are dioceses in countries such as South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan that could well be called rich and require no foreign donations like poor churches in other parts of Asia.

Already some of them, such as Seoul Archdiocese in South Korea, are funding poor churches in Asia and Africa. During the Covid-19 pandemic in India and the crisis in Myanmar, churches in Asia have lent their hands to affected communities in those countries with funds and solidarity in prayer.

Now it is time for Asian churches to stand with beleaguered German brothers and sisters who are still reeling from a deadly natural calamity. It is a matter of fact that not all churches have the capacity to return the favor economically. But that does not bar churches in Asia from reaching out to Germans and others affected in Europe in the form of prayer and solidarity.

Let’s not forget that no matter how rich or powerful, everyone needs support in times of crisis.

* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.



Chinese Catholic writer detained six months ago remains in jail

6th July 2021

UCA News -

No one can meet the activist because of the Covid-19 situation, a detention center employee claimed

UCA News reporter

A 30-year-old Catholic writer, arrested in China’s northern province of Hebei on suspicion of secession six months ago, remains in jail with his family unable to meet him.

Police detained Pang Jian, who writes under the pen name Gao Yang, in January at his home in Pangcheng village, Radio Free Asia reported, quoting his father.

Pang was arrested after he reported on forced demolitions and evictions in rural areas around Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei, said his father Pang Jingxian in a recent interview with RFA.

"They have been doing coronavirus testing around here lately, and he went to line up [to get tested]," he said. "Somehow, I'm not sure exactly how, the police detained him while he was there."

The police also raided his home and took away his belongings.

“We didn't hear anything for a while," but later received notices of his detention and formal arrest dated Jan. 15 and Jan. 28 respectively, Pang Jingxian said.

The detention notice said the writer was detained at Gaobeidian Detention Center at 11am on Jan. 15 on suspicion of inciting secession.

Pang Jingxian said he went to visit his son but could not contact him there. "We can't get hold of him now, and we haven't found a lawyer," he said.

Pang Jian had written about Hebei's Catholics and their unique culture, according to his US-based friend Ryan Shi.

He took photos of most Catholic churches in Hebei and wrote about Catholic customs and architectural features.

Pang Jian also featured in Hong Kong media speaking about Hebei’s underground Catholic community, which refuses to be part of the state-sanctioned church.

An employee of Gaobeidian Detention Center told RFA by phone on July 3 that Pang Jian was still being held there on suspicion of inciting secession.

His health was "very good," the employee said when asked if he suffered from any mental or physical health issues.

No one is allowed to visit him because of the pandemic situation, the employee said.

"One reason is that the case isn't yet closed and the other is the coronavirus situation, so no visits are allowed,” the employer said.




July Updates 2021


July 2021



5 Updates


1. Church faces its moment of truth over Hong Kong's repression.

2. Fears rising over China's looming 're-education' of Christians.

3. Deepening understanding of perspectives on theology in Asia.

4. USCCA Conference 28: New updates, an exciting August program.

5. A new bishop to pastor Hong Kong.





Church faces its moment of truth over Hong Kong's repression.

9th June 20221


UCA News -

Church faces its moment of truth over Hong Kong's repression

After China's clampdown on Tiananmen vigils, an opportunity exists to speak the truth in the face of persecution or compromise

By: Benedict Rogers

For the first time in 32 years, Hong Kong’s Victoria Park was in darkness last Friday. Brave Hong Kongers lit candles in other parts of the city in memory of the Tiananmen Square massacre, but the traditional gathering ground for June 4 was forbidden territory this year, guarded by no fewer than 7,000 police officers instructed to prevent anyone from entering.

The city that until recently was the only place under Chinese sovereignty where June 4 could be commemorated has now gone the way of mainland China, where a state-enforced collective amnesia pervades over this anniversary. Public remembrance of the 1989 massacre of pro-democracy activists by the Chinese regime is now a crime in Hong Kong, punishable by up to five years in jail. The organizers of last year’s Victoria Park rally are all in jail.

One of the few remaining bulwarks — or perhaps oases of truth — against this indoctrination is the Catholic Church. Or, to be more precise, seven Catholic parishes. In those seven churches, Mass was celebrated for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre and their families at 8pm — the time the Victoria Park vigil usually began.

The decision by these seven churches to celebrate Mass was of vital importance, spiritually and symbolically. They could easily have gone the way of others in Hong Kong Diocese, erring on the side of fear and caution. But it is at moments of real darkness that the light of truth — and faith — shines most brightly, and quite rightly they recognized their moral responsibility to open their doors to that light.

A protest or a vigil may no longer be legal in Hong Kong but religious worship has not yet been banned. As Porson Chan, a project officer for the diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission, said, “celebrating a Catholic Mass is a religious activity protected by our basic law,” referring to Hong Kong’s mini-constitution.

Not surprisingly, one of the celebrants of a memorial Mass was Hong Kong’s courageous bishop emeritus, Cardinal Joseph Zen, a long-time outspoken critic of Beijing. In his homily, he said: “We dedicate this memorial Mass to remember the brothers and sisters who sacrificed their lives for our freedom and democracy in Tiananmen Square and the nearby alleys 32 years ago. What they demanded at that time was a clean government. What they longed for was a truly strong China. Their sacrifice was for us, and we embrace their unfulfilled hope: a just and peaceful society, a people respected by the regime, and a truly great China respected by the world.”

Speaking not long after the Hong Kong government imposed a “patriotism” test on legislators and civil servants, which in effect means a test of loyalty not to China but to the Chinese Communist Party, Cardinal Zen highlighted a true patriotism, describing those killed in 1989 as “the patriotic martyrs” who deserve respect and love. Like them, he added, “we do love our country, our hopes never die.” Despite dark times for Hong Kong and China today, he concluded: “We refuse pessimism. We will not lose hope.”

Of course, despite that hope and the fact that the seven churches were merely exercising their right to celebrate Mass, Cardinal Zen warned that “we do not know how tomorrow’s newspapers will label our get-together this evening”, adding clearly: “For us, it is a memorial Mass.”

The day before the anniversary, signs appeared in front of the churches warning them not to celebrate the memorial Mass. The signs, which included images of Cardinal Zen, warned against “evil cults” and “causing chaos in the name of paying tribute; splitting religion with hands full of blood” — language straight out of the Chinese Communist Party’s playbook. The instigators of these warnings cited the draconian national security law, suggesting that public functions commemorating the anniversary of the 1989 massacre would violate this legislation.

Another memorial Mass was celebrated by Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing, who reminded the congregation at St. Francis’ Church in Kowloon that when Jesus’ disciples wavered, Jesus told them that “the greatest difficulty in life is the challenge of faith.”

Even Hong Kong’s new bishop-elect, Jesuit provincial Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, while taking a lower-key approach, said at his press conference three weeks ago that he would pray for the victims of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

So what does this mean for the Church? Three things.

First, it means the Church has a vital role to play, as one of the few remaining “free” spaces in Hong Kong. It must be the guardian of truth, justice and freedom, and it must defend these values appropriately, with wisdom, and at every opportunity. It should never forget that so many Catholics — and Christians of other traditions — have been at the forefront of Hong Kong’s human rights struggle, not least the “father” of the democracy movement Martin Lee, media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai, student activists Agnes Chow and Joshua Wong and law professor Benny Tai.

It should remember those, like Lai and Chow, in prison for their beliefs. And it should constantly prod the conscience — if one exists at all — of Hong Kong’s Chief Executive Carrie Lam, who calls herself a Catholic and yet has willingly been Beijing’s number one enabler in dismantling Hong Kong’s freedoms. The Church must be a prophetic voice in Hong Kong.

Second, however, it means that the Church is now in greater danger. The reality, however, is that would be the case whatever it did. As freedom itself is dismantled in Hong Kong, religious freedom will sooner or later be compromised. The question for the Church is whether it will take it lying down or stand up to defend freedom of religion and conscience. In facing the danger, the Church will need to weigh up the right balance of courage and wisdom. But it should never compromise on its freedom to speak the truth.

And third, the international community now has a greater responsibility to monitor religious freedom in Hong Kong. Pope Francis and the Vatican should re-evaluate their silence on human rights in China and Hong Kong. If it becomes more dangerous for the Church in Hong Kong to speak out, Rome should step in.

For too long, Pope Francis — a pontiff who speaks regularly and powerfully about injustice, persecution and conflict around the world — has been on mute regarding China. He has not spoken out against the crackdown on Christians, he has not met the Dalai Lama, he has not commemorated the Tiananmen Square massacre and he has said almost nothing about the Uyghurs.

Only a passing reference in his book Let Us Dream gave any indication of concern about the Uyghurs, who face what the Canadian, Dutch and British parliaments, the US administration and a growing number of experts believe amounts to a genocide. Vatican officials would do well to study the testimony and evidence presented in four days of hearings at the recent Uyghur Tribunal in London. If the pope heard those first-hand stories, he would find it very difficult to stay silent any longer.

A rare but very welcome call for prayer for the Church in China from Pope Francis ahead of the Global Week of Prayer for China last month was some encouragement, and he would be well advised to build on that. The seven parishes brave enough to hold memorial Masses on June 4 would no doubt be grateful if he said more.

The Church in Hong Kong — and worldwide — is faced with a moment both of great opportunity and great danger. An opportunity to shine a light and speak the truth, yet in the face of twin dangers: persecution or compromise. Let’s hope it rises to the challenge, and let’s pray for protection as it does so.

* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at the international human rights organisation CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission, a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC) and a board member of the Stop Uyghur Genocide Campaign. He is the author of six books, and his faith journey is told in his book “From Burma to Rome: A Journey into the Catholic Church” (Gracewing, 2015).




Fears rising over China's looming 're-education' of Christians


31st May 2021

UCA News -

Fears rising over China's looming 're-education' of Christians

Beijing is crushing religious groups it deems illegal and a threat to the Chinese Communist Party's iron-fisted rule

By: Rock Ronald Rozario

The recent arrest of a Vatican-approved bishop, priests and seminarians in north-central China came as a shocking development, if not surprising, as religious persecution in the communist country has continued to intensify under the watch of President Xi Jinping.

Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang in Henan province was arrested by police on May 21, a day after police detained his seven priests and an unspecified number of seminarians. They are accused of violating new regulations on religious affairs.

The prelate and the priests drew the ire of authorities by using an abandoned factory as a seminary for religious formation of future priests.

They are charged with breaching a new set of rules for religious clergy implemented this month. It requires all clergy to register with the state in order to serve Catholics while asking Catholics to elect their bishops democratically.

The rules also make it illegal to perform religious activities including worship in places not registered or controlled by the state.

The arrests sparked condemnation from Christian and rights groups.

Mervyn Thomas, founding president of London-based Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), said the new regulations on religious affairs are tools for oppressing religious communities, especially Christians.

“These arrests, which follow the introduction of the new regulations on religious staff, appear to confirm fears that restrictions on religious communities will continue to tighten. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of these Christians and all those detained across China on account of their religion or beliefs. We also encourage the international community to raise this and other cases of arbitrary detention and harassment of religious leaders,” Thomas said.

The CSW also noted that prominent Christian leaders such as Zhang Chunlei of the Love Reformed Church and Pastor Yang Hua from the Living Stone Church in Guiyang in Guizhou province were harassed and assaulted before being arrested by authorities.

Local authorities shut down the Living Stone Church in 2016 and the Love Reformed Church in 2018. The leaders have been detained after they were accused of fraud and illegally running unauthorized organizations.

Pastor Yang was beaten so badly by a local leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in a police station in Guiyang that he had to be admitted to the emergency department of a hospital in the city.

Yang was also arrested in 2016 when his church was shut down and spent 2.5 years in prison on fabricated allegations of “deliberately divulging state secrets.” On his release in 2018, Yang told fellow members of the church to “hold fast to the faith,” according to US-based international advocacy group China Aid.

Bishop Zhang has faced the ire of authorities for decades. It is because China never recognized Xinxiang as a diocese since it was set up by the Vatican in 1936. Bishop Zhang, ordained secretly in 1991, was not approved by the state-aligned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China and Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Bishop Zhang has been under pressure from the state for years due largely to his allegiance to the pope and refusal to join the state-aligned open church. He was never allowed to run the diocese effectively and the diocese has been in the custody of a government-appointed administrator since 2010. The prelate was also arrested on several occasions but released later.

Since the latest arrests, the whereabouts of Bishop Zhang, priests and seminarians remain unknown, while some media speculated that they have been held in solitary confinement and are subject to “political lessons.”

There are rising fears among China watchers and observers that the communist regime has been moving slowly to crush religious groups, including Catholic and Protestant churches that it deems illegal and a threat to the CCP’s iron-fisted rule in mainland China.

In a recent article in Forbes magazine, Dr. Ewelina U. Ochab, a London-based expert on international law and genocide researcher, suggested that Christians in China might be next in line for “re-education” like Uyghur Muslims.

Christians are subject to high levels of persecution, while the situation of all religious groups in China is dire and has been deteriorating in recent years, she said.

The Christian Post reported this month that Chinese authorities have been removing Bible apps and Christian WeChat public accounts. International Christian Concern reported that Bibles in hard copy are no longer available for sale online either, adding that Bible apps can only be downloaded in China with the use of a virtual private network (VPN).

In April, Radio Free Asia (RFA) published a report that claimed authorities in China were detaining Christians in secretive, mobile "transformation" facilities to make them renounce their faith.

The RFA report used the testimony of Li Yusee, a pseudonym for a member of a Christian “house church” in Sichuan province. Li said he was held in a secret facility run by the United Front Work Department of the CCP in collaboration with the secret police for 10 months after a raid on his church in 2018.

"It was a mobile facility that could just set up in some basement somewhere. It was staffed by people from several different government departments," Li said, adding that it had its own political and legal affairs committee working group and mainly targeted Christians who are members of house churches.
Li said he was detained in a windowless room for nearly 10 months, during which time he was beaten, verbally abused and "mentally tortured" by staff.

He said most of his fellow inmates were also people who had been released on bail during criminal detention for taking part in church-related activities. Although they didn’t commit any criminal offense, police sent them to “transformation facilities.”

The chilling account resembles the detention and persecution of ethnic Uyghurs Muslims and other banned religious and cult groups such as Falun Gong and the Church of Almighty God.

China’s repressive policies and actions against religious groups have been documented by global watchdogs.

On Jan. 13, 2021, US-based Christian group Open Doors published a World Watch List that assesses 50 countries where Christians face the most severe forms of persecution. It listed China (17) among the top 20 countries due to a widespread crackdown on Christians and other religious minorities.

“The policy of ‘Sinicizing’ the church has been implemented nationwide as the [CCP] limits whatever it perceives as a threat to its rule and ideology. Thousands of churches have been damaged or closed. In some parts of China, children under the age of 18 aren’t allowed to attend church — part of the country’s efforts to stunt future growth,” Open Doors reported.

Sinicization aims to impose strict rules on societies and institutions based on the core values of socialism, autonomy and supporting the leadership of the CCP.

In its 2021 report, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCRIF) commented that China continues to persecute Christians and harass Catholic bishops despite the 2018 Vatican-China deal on bishop appointments.

Under the deal, which was renewed last year, the Vatican recognized eight bishops ordained by the state without papal mandate. However, China didn’t recognize a number of Vatican-approved bishops including Bishop Zhang of Xinxiang.

“Despite the Vatican-China agreement on bishop appointments, Chinese authorities continued to harass, detain and torture underground Catholic bishops — such as Cui Tai and Huang Jintong — who refuse to join the state-backed Catholic association. They also harassed, detained, arrested and imprisoned members of Protestant house churches who refuse to join the state-sanctioned Three-Self Patriotic Movement,” USCRIF reported.

It also pointed out that the government continued to demolish both Catholic and Protestant church buildings and crosses under its Sinicization campaign.




Deepening understanding of perspectives on theology in Asia.


The Buddhist Studies and Dialogue Group of the Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific has published a collection of lectures by world-renowned theologian Fr Michael Amaladoss SJ into a book titled, “Peoples’ Theology in Asia”.



The book draws from a series of lectures the author gave to Jesuit scholastics participating in the East Asia Theological Encounter Program (EATEP) from 2006 to 2018. EATEP is an intensive course on Asian contextual theology designed to supplement the theological formation of young Jesuits in Asian cultures and religions. These lectures were also given by Fr Amaladoss to audiences in Chennai where the series received an enthusiastic response.

“Theology is our search for a better understanding of our faith in relation to our lives. It is encountering God in the way God challenges our lives and our relationships. This is affected by the historical, geographical, cultural, and religious circumstances in which we live. For those of us living in Asia, our situation will affect our experience of God and the way we speak about it. This is Asian theology. This book is an attempt to share my reflections and provoke your own thinking!” writes Fr Amaladoss.

He explains that Asian countries are multi-cultural and multi-religious, but share similar theological issues. “The Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, over the last 45 years, has created a common theological atmosphere in South, South-East and East Asia. This is the area I have in mind while speaking of an ‘Asian’ theology. We can also speak of an Asian way of thinking as compared to the African and the Euro-American ways, as I try to show in an introductory chapter. So I think that this book will be accessible and useful to my different Asian audiences though they will have to apply what they read to their particular situations and their challenges.”

Fr In-gun Kang SJ, EATEP Director and Coordinator for the Buddhist Studies and Dialogue Group, says in his foreword to the book: “Fr Amaladoss underscores the fact that theology is not only a ‘faith seeking understanding,’ but a peoples’ living experience of the liberating God in their seeking the total transformation of themselves and the world. Therefore, the author of theology is no academic thinker or writer, but the people of God themselves.”  He highlights how “Fr Amaladoss aptly points out that peoples’ experiential theology in Asia can be summarised as the three-fold dialogue of the Gospel with the poor, the cultures, and the religions.”

The book is divided into three parts. The first part on Our Mission in Asia includes chapters on mission as dialogue, Jesus Christ amidst the religions, and the various images of Jesus in an Asian cultural and religious context.  The second part, God with Us, delves into people’s experience of God in various forms of Asian spirituality. The book concludes with the Challenges We Face, detailing the different challenges Asian churches face in journeying towards the Kingdom of God with people of other religions and all people of goodwill.

“Peoples’ Theology in Asia” is available to download for free in pdf, and epub files for both iOS and Android devices.



USCCA Conference 28: New updates, an exciting August program.

This August you are invited to “China, Christianity, and the Dialogue of Civilizations”. This 28th international conference of the US-China Catholic Association comes at a time when we have been tested. So let us come together. 
     Join us to take stock. Stand by companions for the journey.
     Scroll down and find out more!
I hope to see you this August,
Fr. Michael 

USCCA Executive Director


When the US-China Catholic Association holds its conference in August, a wide range of scholars will share their reflections on
  • Chinese and Christian Spirituality,
  • the Vatican accord with Beijing,
  • Christians and Hong Kong’s civic life,
  • the Chinese government’s policy on “Sinicization”,
  • the impact of rapid urbanization on how faith is lived,
and more…
Please click the link below:
Adobe Acrobat document [2.3 MB]





A new bishop to pastor Hong Kong.

28th May 2021

Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong

A new bishop to pastor Hong Kong

Pope Francis APPOINTED the Jesuit Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan as the next bishop of Hong Kong on May 17. This is indeed good news for the local Church, which has been awaiting a new bishop for over two years.

The bishop-elect, who met with the media on May 18, shared his thoughts and feelings about accepting the appointment and revealed some of his pastoral concerns about the days ahead.

Father Chow went through a discernment process, initially declining, as he felt the bishop should be a diocesan priest. However, noting that his obedience it to the pope, he recounted that Pope Francis wrote him a letter agreeing that he should be the bishop. So in full obedience and loyalty, Father Chow finally accepted the appointment.

At the start of the press conference, the bishop-elect clearly expressed his hope to help neglected communities such as those who suffer from domestic abuse and job loss. He understands that to achieve these aims, the Church needs to work with other religious groups, charities and the government to help improve livelihoods in Hong Kong

In this process, the issues of religion and politics cannot be avoided in the broadest sense, politics is everyone’s business and involves every aspect of life. Religion emphasises the salvation of human souls and empowers everyone to lead a better life with human dignity being respected. The Church gives mission the priority and mission can enhance the quality of human souls and people’s livelihoods.

The bishop-elect also touched on that fact that the Church must accompany young people, a big part of which must be empathetic listening. Empathy is conducive to understanding another person’s situations and views. It does not necessarily require full agreement. However, understanding and sensitivity to the feelings expressed is a good beginning. Father Chow expressed a hope to help diverse young people to develop empathy so that all of us can walk together.

The Church needs to understand their different views and to find an opportunity to invite them to dialogue instead of engaging in debates to determine wins and who loses. There should be an expectation for all parties to have real dialogue, in which they listen to each other.

Starting in May, the Society of Jesus launched the Ignatian Year, commemorating of the 500th anniversary of the conversion of its founder, St Ignatius of Loyola, with the theme: To see all things new in Christ,.

This primary aim is the celebration of the great work God has done through Ignatius, transforming a soldier and courtier to a humble and great pilgrim who did God’s will. During a battle, he suffered severe leg wounds and nearly died. This destroyed all his aspirations. However, it was during this experience that he saw all things new.

This transformation is an inspiration to the local Church and to the Catholics in Hong Kong to do God’s will.

Let us pray for the diocese and Hong Kong, especially for Bishop-elect Stephen Chow. As John Cardinal Tong longed for, under the leadership of the bishop-elect, the diocese can serve the Church and society with wisdom and love. SE

*** *** *** *** *** ***

‘I want to love like a good ‘papa,’” says Hong Kong’s bishop-elect

Bishop-elect Stephen Chow Sau-yan during a press conference on May 18.
Updated: 12:46 UTC, 18 May 2021

HONG KONG (SE): “I want to love like a good ‘papa,’ a good father, have understanding like a good principal, and be merciful as God is merciful,” said Jesuit Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan, the bishop-elect of the Diocese of Hong Kong. The Vatican announced the appointment of Father Chow as the 9th bishop of the diocese of Hong Kong on 17 May 2021.

The appointment comes after a long wait of two years and four months following the death of Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung on 3 January 2019. Father Chow belongs to the Society of Jesus, and is currently the provincial superior of the Chinese Province at the time of the new appointment.

The appointment is a moment of gratitude for the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, as it has been prayerfully awaiting the shepherd who will accompany the faithful in these times of socio-political and religious polarisation in the city.

Born to a Catholic family in Hong Kong on 7 August 1959, Father Chow joined the Society of Jesus on 27 September 1984 in Dublin, Ireland. Before joining the seminary, he already had a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Philosophy and a Master of Arts in Educational Psychology (Counselling) from the University of Minnesota in the United States (US). After completing his Theology formation in Hong Kong, he was ordained a priest by John Cardinal Baptist Wu Cheng-chung on the feast of Mount Carmel on 16 July 1994.

Meanwhile, Father Chow obtained a Master of Science degree in Organisational Development at Loyola University, Chicago, US, and worked at Wah Yan College Kowloon and Hong Kong for five years, from 1995 to 2000, as minister, ethics teacher, vocations director and chaplain. At Wah Yan College Hong Kong and Kowloon, he also served as school manager (trustee).

In 2000, he went to Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education to study Human Development and Psychology, and completed his Doctorate in Education in 2006.

After finishing his doctorate in the US, Father Chow took up the position of school supervisor at Wah Yan College, Hong Kong in 2007 as well as Wah Yan College, Kowloon the next year. Educating the youth, not to become champions, but to become responsible citizens has been the priority of Jesuit Education mission.

Father Chow has headed the Education Commission of the China Province since 2009. Since 2012, he has also been serving at the Holy Spirit Seminary as part time lecturer in Psychology. He also served as a member of the Diocesan Priests’ Council from 2012-2014.

In America magazine, Father Arturo Sosa, the superior general of the Society of Jesus, said of Father Chow’s appointment as bishop of Hong Kong: “I am happy that Father Stephen can continue to serve, and I wish him every blessing in this new ministry. The Jesuits are proud of our links with the Chinese people, which go back to the great missionary Matteo Ricci who had such a respect for Chinese culture.”






May Updates 2021


May 2021



6 Updates


1. US Bishops promote prayer octave for China.

2. Don't regard Beijing as the enemy, says Hong Kong's new bishop.

3. Hong Kong gets new bishop after two-year wait.

4. Card Bo calls for a 'Global Prayer for China'.

5. Macau honors Our Lady of Fatima with postal stamps.

6. Student volunteers from The Beijing Center teach English to local community children.




US Bishops promote prayer octave for China.


21st May 2021      

Catholic News Agency 

By: CNA Staff

Washington D.C., America/Denver (CNA).

The chair of the US bishops’ international justice and peace committee on Thursday called for participation in the prayer octave for the Church in China urged by Charles Maung Cardinal Bo of Yangon.

In 2007, Benedict designated May 24, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, as a Worldwide Day of Prayer for the Church in China. In March, Cardinal Bo called for that day of prayer to be expanded into an octave, observed May 23-30.

Bishop David Malloy of Rockford said May 20 that “recognizing China’s growing global power, Cardinal Bo has expressed his hope that through these prayers, China ‘may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized in the world.’ Similarly, Pope Francis has also affirmed his prayers for Catholics in China, acknowledging their difficulties, assuring them of his daily prayers, and exhorting them to be good citizens, ‘to make a prophetic and constructive contribution born of their faith in the kingdom of God.’”

“In unity and great love, let us join with the Church universal in our prayers to Our Lady Help of Christians, for China,” Bishop Malloy concluded.

Cardinal Bo had said in March that “Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the peoples of China have faced increasing challenges, which impact us all. It is right that we should pray not only for the Church but for all persons in the People’s Republic of China.”

“We should ask Our Lady of Sheshan to protect all humanity and therefore the dignity of each and every person in China, in the words of Pope Benedict XVI’s prayer, ‘to believe, to hope, to love’,” he added.

In February 2020 China began enforcing administrative measures to control every aspect of religious activity within the country, mandating that all religions and believers in China comply with regulations issued by the Chinese Communist Party, which must be acknowledged as the higher authority.

In May the legislature of China approved a resolution to impose new “security laws” on its formerly autonomous region, Hong Kong— a move pro-democracy protestors and Catholics in the country feared would undermine Hong Kongers’ freedoms, including freedom of religion.

A bishop of the underground Church was arrested in June.

In July a technology publication reported that the Diocese of Hong Kong has been targeted by “spear-phishing” operations from the Chinese government.

The Hong Kong diocese intervened in August to cancel a Catholic pro-democracy ad campaign and prayer that was set to run in local papers.

The same month, Hong Kong entrepreneur and media executive Jimmy Lai was arrested on criminal charges stemming from his support for democracy on the island territory.




Don't regard Beijing as the enemy, says Hong Kong's new bishop.

19th May 2021

UCA News -

Bishop-designate Stephen Chow aims for dialogue to ensure religious freedom as a basic right in the Chinese territory

Catholic News Service and UCA News reporter

Bishop-designate Stephen Chow Sau-yan has urged Hong Kong Catholics to start with a sense of faith and not assume Beijing is the enemy as he hoped for dialogue to develop a better understanding.

“It is not that I am afraid to talk about controversial or political issues. Rather, we believe prudence is a virtue,” he said.

“Religious freedom is our basic right. We want to really talk to the government not to forget that. It is important to allow religious freedom, matters of faith — not just Catholic but any religion should be free.”

Hong Kong Diocese introduced the bishop-designate at a news conference on May 18, the day after Pope Francis named him a bishop. Father Chow, 61, is provincial of the Chinese Province of the Society of Jesus. To allow for the Jesuits to appoint a new provincial superior, his episcopal consecration will be on Dec. 4, reported the Sunday Examiner , the newspaper of the Hong Kong Diocese.

The Catholic Social Communications Office announced that Cardinal John Tong Hon, apostolic administrator of Hong Kong, will continue in office until Father Chow takes canonical possession of the diocese after his installation.

At the news conference, Father Chow answered an array of questions regarding his vision for the diocese, its relationship and integration with Hong Kong society and its relationship with the Church in China.

Responding to a question about how he would bring about unity in the church community, which has been highly polarized in the recent past, he said that since he has just been appointed, he has no big plans.

“But I do believe that there is a God who wants us to be united. Unity is not the same as uniformity. I always mentioned in my schools, we must respect unity in plurality. It is something that we must learn to respect — plurality,” he said.

The appointment of Father Chow, who is seen as non-divisive, is regarded by observers as a way to tackle the polarization among local Catholics divided between those who expect the Church to be more vocal about China's policies and those who prefer less confrontation.

Since 2006, Father Chow has been supervisor of the Wah Yan colleges, two prestigious Jesuit educational institutions in Hong Kong. He described his role of supervisor as that of being a “bridge.”

When the Sunday Examiner quizzed him on his role of being a bridge in the larger perspective of the diocese, Father Chow said: “Two years ago, Hong Kong and even my school community were much divided. The question was how to bring healing. It takes a long process — and I am not saying I was successful, but I am doing my best. Listening with empathy is very important, and this is the fundamental point.”

Responding to a question on what his fears or concerns might be and the difficulty that he had in accepting the appointment, he said he believed “the bishop of the diocese should better come from among the diocesan priests.”

However, he said, “I have discussed and discerned with my father general in Rome. At the end, as a Jesuit, I owe my obedience to the Holy Father.”

He recounted, “The Holy Father wrote something — in his handwriting — that he ‘agrees that I should be the bishop.’ I read the letter — in Italian, I don’t know Italian — but it was translated for me. For me, that was a sign that I should take it up. And Hong Kong is a place I really love, my birthplace and the place where I grew up.”

Responding to a question about accompanying young people in the future, especially on occasions like observing the June 4 anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre, Father Chow said: “There are different ways of commemoration. Sometimes in the past, I had joined the event in the public arena, but there were times I could not go. So I pray, I pray for China, pray for all those who passed away in 1989. Whether it is possible this year depends on the legal requirements.”

When asked about the removal of crosses from churches on the mainland, he said he was saddened to see that but there were many backstories to these incidents which he was not knowledgeable of.

Concerning the crackdown on Catholics on the mainland, the Jesuit said he did not think it was wise for him to comment on matters that he did not fully understand without sufficient information.

“That would be rash. It’s not because I’m afraid. But I believe prudence is also a virtue,” he said.

A journalist asked Father Chow what advice he would give Carrie Lam, chief executive of Hong Kong, who is also a Catholic. She has been criticized for losing touch with the people and refusing to listen to their views. He responded that he has not yet met the chief executive and it is not proper for him to advise her through a news conference.

Lam and other officials in Hong Kong have faced increasing pressure since China implemented a new security law that bans subversive and secessionist actions in the former British colony. Last July, Zheng Yanxiong, a senior Chinese politician who crushed a mainland democracy movement, was appointed to oversee its implementation.

When Britain handed back Hong Kong to China in 1997, certain democratic rights were guaranteed for at least 50 years under the “one country, two systems” agreement. However, the imposition of the security law practically brings Hong Kong under full Chinese administration and indirectly ends the agreement that allowed Hong Kong’s semi-autonomous status.




Hong Kong gets new bishop after two-year wait.

17th May 2021


UCA News -

Jesuit Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan 'has strong faith and strong leadership skills'

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong

The Vatican has appointed a 61-year-old Jesuit as the new bishop of Hong Kong after delaying the appointment for more than two years because of diplomatic sensibilities over China’s communist regime.

Father Stephen Chow Sau-yan was appointed on May 17 to succeed Bishop Michael Yeung Ming-cheung, who died on Jan. 3, 2019, leaving the diocese vacant.

“The appointment is a moment of gratitude for the Catholic Church in Hong Kong as it has been prayerfully awaiting the shepherd who will accompany the faithful in these times of socio-political polarization in the city,” the diocese said while announcing the news on its website.

Cardinal John Tong Hon, 82, has been leading the diocese as its apostolic administrator, although he retired as bishop when Bishop Yeung was appointed in 2017.

The Vatican overlooked Hong Kong’s Auxiliary Bishop Joseph Ha Chi-shing for the post after he openly criticized Beijing and supported the pro-democracy movement in the city that began in 2019.

Observers say the Vatican delayed the appointment in order to find a candidate acceptable to the Chinese communist regime that has tightened its control over Hong Kong’s administration since last year.

Bishop-elect Chow was the Jesuit provincial superior of the Chinese Province at the time of his appointment.

Bishop Ha, a Franciscan, is seen as unacceptable to Beijing as he often appeared at prayer vigils and at protest gatherings saying that “no matter how long” the protesters stayed, he would stay with them.

Beijing’s approval of the Hong Kong bishop is also seen as essential after the Vatican and China inked an agreement on the appointment of bishops in China in an effort to stop the state from appointing bishops without the Vatican’s mandate.

Although Hong Kong enjoys autonomy as a special administrative region, China treats the city as part of its territory for all practical purposes, especially after Hong Kong’s national security law was enacted in June 2020.

“Father Chow is a good choice for the diocese. He has strong faith and strong leadership skills,” said a local Catholic who has known the Jesuit for a few decades.

“His experience with education will boost the Catholics’ confidence in Catholic education.”

After completing his doctorate in education in the US, Father Chow took up the leadership of Wah Yan College in Hong Kong in 2007.

Father Chow has headed the Education Commission of the China Province since 2009.

“Educating the youth not to become champions but to become responsible citizens has been the priority of the Jesuit education mission,” the diocesan site said while introducing Father Chow.

Since 2012, Father Chow has also served at Holy Spirit Seminary as a part-time lecturer in psychology. He also served as a member of the Diocesan Priests’ Council from 2012 to 2014.

“Reconciliation and unity are much needed in the Catholic Church in Hong Kong and unity is most important for the diocese at the moment,” a Catholic woman told UCA News, indicating the division among clergy and laity.

While some Hong Kong Catholics adamantly oppose having any links with the communist regime, others seek a compromise to practice their faith without being communist victims, another Catholic woman said.

“It is definitely a wise decision of the Vatican and will probably help the local Church move forward with a more united spirit,” said the woman, who identified herself only as Theresa.




Card Bo calls for a 'Global Prayer for China'.

5th May 2021



A group of experts, politicians and academics launch a week of prayer for the persecuted in China: Catholics, Protestants, Muslims, Hong Kong activists, prisoners of conscience. Theis follows Card Charles Maung Bo’s call for a Week of Prayer for the Church in China, like the Day of Prayer established by Benedict XVI in 2007, on the feast day of Our Lady of Sheshan.

London (AsiaNews) – A group of Christian lay people from six continents started a Global Prayer for China campaign, calling on the faithful to pray from 23 to 30 May 2021 for the Church and peoples of China, including Xinjiang’s persecuted Uyghurs, prisoners of conscience, Protestant clergymen, activists and jailed prominent Hong Kongers.

The coalition members include US Congressman Chris Smith, British Lord David Alton, Canadian MP Garnett Genuis, Australian MP Kevin Andrews, Law Professor Jane Adolphe, Hudson Institute Senior Fellow Nina Shea, CSW’s expert Benedict Rogers; Canada’s former religious freedom envoy Andrew Bennett is the spokesman.

The campaign provides information about political and religious prisoners, the situation of religious freedom in China, as well as means for homilies and vigils to be held during the last week of May.

The campaign is inspired by a message from Card Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon (Myanmar) and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), who last March launched the idea of holding a Global Week of Prayer for the Church and the Peoples of China.

Pope Benedict XVI established a World Day of Prayer for the China in 2007, to be celebrated on 24 May each year, the feast day of Our Lady of Sheshan, Mary Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Marian shrine of Sheshan, near Shanghai.

In order to explain the reasons for this week of prayer, Card. Bo said: “I am expressing my love for the peoples of China, my respect for their ancient civilization and extraordinary economic growth, and my hopes that as it continues to rise as a global power, it may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized in the world.”

At the same time, “I urge the faithful, [. . .] to join with Pope Francis, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the whole Church to ask, in the words of Benedict XVI, the ‘Mother of China and all Asia’ to support the faithful, that ‘they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world, and of the world to Jesus”, and ‘always be credible witnesses to this love, ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.’”



Macau honors Our Lady of Fatima with postal stamps.

10th May 2021

UCA News -

Move recognizes Church's role in enriching society and culture in the former Portuguese colony

UCA News reporter, Macau

Authorities in Macau have decided to publish postal stamps of Our Lady of Fatima to honor the long-held tradition of devotion to Mary by Catholics in the Chinese-ruled territory.

The Directorate of Postal and Telecommunications Services will launch a set of two stamps and a block featuring the traditional, decades-old Procession of Our Lady of Fatima in Macau on May 13.

The date of publication coincides with the Church’s celebration of the feast of Our Lady of Fatima commemorating the Apparition of Mary to three young shepherds in Fatima, Portugal, on May 13, 1917, when Mary asked the world to recite the rosary daily for peace in the world and for sinners to repent for their wrongdoings.

Church officials hailed the decision as a recognition of the Church’s important role in enriching society and culture in Macau.

The feast of Our Lady of Fatima followed by a nine-day novena was introduced by Portuguese Bishop Jose D. Costa Nunes of Macau in 1929 when the territory was under Portuguese rule.

Since then, the feast has become a signature annual Catholic event for Macau Diocese. Every year, many people from various parts of China and abroad flock to Macau to participate in the event that also features a colorful procession.

The procession also features two girls and a boy attired in Portuguese traditional costumes, symbolizing the shepherds who witnessed the apparitions. With recitations of the rosary and singing of hymns, the procession makes its way from St. Dominic’s Church to the Penha Chapel, providing a very impressive scene, noted the Cultural Affairs Bureau of Macau.

In 2019, Macau's government recognized the procession of Our Lady of Fatima by including it on its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.

The procession was suspended last year due to the coronavirus pandemic and is expected to be held on a limited scale this year. The island has recorded only 49 cases — all recovered and no deaths — from Covid-19.

Catholics in Macau number about 30,000 spread across nine parishes and Catholicism bears the legacy of Portuguese rule from 1557 to 1999.

The resort-cum-casino city has an estimated population of 680,000, mostly Chinese originally from various provinces, several thousand ethnic Macanese and foreign migrants including Portuguese, Filipinos and Vietnamese.

About 80 percent of people in Macau follow Buddhism, about 7 percent Christianity and the rest follow various faiths including Judaism and Islam, according to Pew Research Center.




Student volunteers from The Beijing Center teach English to local community children.

13th April 2021

JCAP - Jesuit Conference of Asia Pacific


By: Vukica Elenovska


The commitment to service-learning has long been a core practice and value for students at The Beijing Center. This semester, the Spring 2021 students had the opportunity to visit an organization that The Beijing Center has collaborated with for years, Five Loaves and Two Fish.


At Five Loaves and Two Fish, the dedicated volunteers continue to support local communities of migrant children in Beijing, by providing them a safe space to improve their education and nurture their well-being, as their families work towards a better living. As part of this community service, The Beijing Center students participate by extending their knowledge to help the children learn more by running lively activities for the children on the weekends.



On arrival, the students were welcomed by Fr. Zevola Giovanni, the organization’s founder, and devoted supporter. While The Beijing Center’s Executive Director, Dr. Simon Koo, and Fr. Giovanni exchanged a few words, the students became acquainted with the children they would be teaching for the day.


The Beijing Center students and staff came prepared with a lesson plan to teach the children English. The lesson plan included an engaging rhythmic children’s cartoon in English, which presented new vocabulary words that were used in the following game. After watching the cartoon, the children were able to better understand and memorize the new words, and their knowledge was tested in a fun banter game of guessing words in English. The students were able to teach the children new words in an interactive way, by using their English skills to help them practice speaking and reading in another language. This lingual delight left the children energized and student-volunteers inspired by the positive influence they created.


Through such service-learning activities, which are part of the academic curriculum at The Beijing Center, students are able to develop holistic perspectives by encountering and engaging with marginalized communities, while also providing an invaluable experience to children who greatly benefit from additional and diverse learning activities.


Founded in 1998, The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies (TBC) is a center of higher education in mainland China committed to fostering mutual understanding between China and other cultures through cultural exchange, education, and research. What makes us unique is our placement in a long and storied tradition of Jesuit education, one that teaches us that true cultural engagement starts first with friendship. To learn more, visit or






April Updates 2021


April 2021



7 Updates


1Chinese Christians honor ancestors at Easter.

2. Online exhibition: The Jesuits between East and West.

3. USCCA: Save the Date and Share! 2021 USCCA Conference.

4. Hong Kong's homeless continue to increase, says Catholic missionary.

5. China's new measures on clergy ignore Vatican agreement.

6. Mgr. Andrea Han Jingtao dies

7. Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide died





Chinese Christians honor ancestors at Easter.

8th April 2021



As the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday approached, parishioners of Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Xiantao city in China's Hebei province were alarmed by the sounds of fireworks and firecrackers.


Xiantao, some 100 kilometers from provincial capital Wuhan, where the first human infections from the deadly novel coronavirus were detected in late 2019, was mostly lifeless at Easter last year due to a strict lockdown to stem the invisible enemy that has claimed some three million lives globally.


Life in many parts of China has returned to normal and so Christians flocked to churches in droves to celebrate Holy Week leading to Easter Sunday.

Many Christians in Xiantao joined in setting off fireworks and firecrackers before joining the Easter Vigil in the church, though their actions had nothing to do with Easter. They were related to the traditional Qingming festival, also known as Tomb Sweeping Day, that coincided with Easter Sunday this year.


In Chinese culture, the Qingming festival is a memorial celebration to honor ancestors. It is believed to be more than 2,000 years old and is observed by Han Chinese people across mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia.


Please click below to read more:





Online exhibition: The Jesuits between East and West


Cultural anxieties and suspicions are likely to prevent the development of more realistic images of each other. Therefore, it is instructive to look more closely at a relevant episode from the past: the adventures of the Jesuits in China in the 17th and 18th century.

These missionaries managed to establish a real dialogue on religion, philosophy and science with the oft well-educated upper echelons of Chinese society.

This online exhibition centres on the often lavishly illustrated books about China from Maastricht University’s Jesuit Collection. Driven by missionary zeal, many Jesuits embarked on a risky journey to the East – and quite a few of them did not survive the hazardous ocean journey.

The new exhibition is devoted to the role of the Jesuits as mediators between East and West, a theme which fits well with Maastricht University’s interdisciplinary Global Studies programme, which includes a focus on Tolerance & Beliefs. From the start, the Jesuits were known for the importance they attached not only to spirituality, but also to education. Many of them were – and are – themselves critical intellectuals with a scholarly mindset, an open attitude towards cultural contact and a global, international outlook.

This is the first online exhibition of Maastricht University. To view the online exhibition in English, see here:



USCCA: Save the Date and Share! 2021 USCCA Conference

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The US-China Catholic Association was founded in 1989 by concerned U.S. bishops, Maryknoll, the Jesuits, and representatives of other religious orders to promote support and fraternal ties between the Church in China and the U.S. Church.




Hong Kong's homeless continue to increase, says Catholic missionary

10th March 2021

UCA News -

Social distancing measures designed to stem the spread of Covid-19 have worsened economic stagnation

Catholic News Service

Oblate Father John Wotherspoon loves McDonald's restaurants, and it's not because of the fries.

The reason the Catholic priest favors the fast-food chain is that the 24-hour stores were among the few places that allowed homeless people to stay in the late evening and early morning hours. The unofficial policy even resulted in a nickname, "McSleepers," for the late-night denizens.

"God bless McDonald's for their compassion to the poor, it was the only place for these people to go," Father Wotherspoon said, noting that the restaurant chain has regularly donated meals for the homeless in Hong Kong.

But the after-hours haven of the golden arches ended abruptly about a year ago when the coronavirus pandemic tightened its grip on the city, prompting the government to order the closure of all restaurants at 6 p.m. -- recently amended to 10 p.m. -- and forcing scores of homeless onto the streets to look for places to sleep.

"When people couldn't go to McDonald's, that's when things increased rapidly (for the worse)," Father Wotherspoon said.

The city's social welfare department said there were just over 1,100 homeless people in Hong Kong in 2017. But charities and nongovernmental organizations say the actual number is much higher now in this city with a population of about 7.5 million. Pro-democracy protests in 2019 crippled the economy and jobs were jettisoned. The economy reached a nadir as the pandemic intensified with waves of new infections.

Social distancing measures designed to stem the spread of COVID-19 have continued the stagnation. With the city government struggling to reverse the economic tailspin and unwilling to provide shelter for the growing number of homeless people, a crisis was in the making, Father Wotherspoon said.

"In my opinion, this is the worst the homeless problem has ever been in Hong Kong," said Father Wotherspoon, 74, a native of Brisbane, Australia, who has been in Hong Kong for 36 years and in the Jordan neighborhood on the Kowloon side of the city for 11 years.

But it was a moment of apparent divine intervention that provided some relief.

A local report in a Cantonese-language newspaper last year about the looming homeless crisis mentioned the priest's name and resulted in an unprecedented flood of donations, Father Wotherspoon said.

"It just multiplied from there," he said. "I never looked for money. It found me."

A friend who asked Father Wotherspoon for permission to post his bank account number on a Facebook page increased the flow of donations.

The funding allowed the priest and the NGO he started in 2016, MercyHK, to rent rooms in an apartment building in the adjoining neighborhood of Yau Ma Tei for those without a place to sleep. Some of the homeless work in a shop in Jordan opened last year by MercyHK; it sells secondhand goods. Those who cannot work due to age or infirmity are helped in applying for government assistance.

Father Wotherspoon said he and his NGO currently rent 40 rooms for 60 people at a cost of over HK$200,000 (US$25,700) a month in a city with the most expensive residential real estate in the world.

Soon after MercyHK found apartments for those who used to be on the street, a restaurant in the same apartment building agreed to donate free meals every Wednesday.

The rented apartments are each occupied by two or three people of the same gender and include a shower and toilet. One man who lost his cleaning job and was sleeping in the noisy airport and other places that were open late said the peace and safety of his shared apartment was a significant improvement.

"This is so much better," said 76-year-old Ah Ming, who moved into his Yau Ma Tei apartment 10 months ago. "There are no planes here."

But Father Wotherspoon said the homeless problem will get worse as the effects of the pandemic continue and the economy remains in the doldrums. There are still scores of homeless who are addicted to drugs or suffering from mental illness who are unsuitable to be placed in an apartment and thus remain on the street. They are still given food and support. The city's poorest district, Sham Shui Po, has an even worse homeless problem, he said.

Father Wotherspoon admitted he occasionally has difficult days.

"But it's never as bad as it is for these people," he said.




China's new measures on clergy ignore Vatican agreement

25th February 2021


UCA News -

China's new measures on clergy ignore Vatican agreement

New regulations ask Catholics to elect their bishops democratically and report to the state administration

UCA News reporter

The communist government in China has promulgated a new set of rules for religious clergy to be implemented in two months, but they ignore the Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments by asking people to elect their bishops democratically.

The new Administrative Measures for Religious Clergy, set to come into effect from May 1, cover priests of all five authorized religions in China — Buddhism, Taoism, Catholicism, Protestantism and Islam.

The new measures, adapted from the 2018 Regulation on Religious Affairs, were promulgated on Jan. 8 as State Administration of Religious Affairs Order No. 15. An English translation of the original text in Chinese appears on, a website on religious liberty.

“Catholic bishops are approved and consecrated by the Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC),” says article XVI of the order, which refuses to mention the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement on bishop appointments, which was renewed for another two-year term in 2020.

The BCCCC, which is not recognized by the Holy See, and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA), which directly works under the Chinese administration overseeing the state-approved Catholic Church, are given responsibility for reporting the election of bishops.

Within 20 days of the consecration of a bishop, the BCCCC and CCPA should report it to the State Administration of Religious Affairs, stipulates article XVI.

One of the documents to be submitted to the State Administration of Religious Affairs for the record of electing the bishop is “a statement issued by the Catholic community … on the democratic election of the bishop.”

The Catholic community electing a bishop could be of a province, autonomous region or municipality functioning directly under the central government, the article says.

The new regulations indirectly assert that the election of Catholic bishops will be done by the state-approved system under the Chinese Communist Party’s direction and the Vatican and Pope Francis will have no role in it.

It runs contrary to the laborious China-Vatican deal on appointment of Catholic bishops, signed in September 2018 after several years of negotiations. The still undisclosed deal aims to appoint bishops with the agreement of China and the Vatican.

It also aims to end the division in the Chinese Church between the state-approved church and the Vatican-recognized church. While state-appointed bishops lead state-approved church communities, Vatican-appointed bishops lead the other group, also known as the underground church.

Since the Sino-Vatican deal, the Vatican has approved seven Beijing-appointed bishops, while the state-sanctioned church has approved and installed at least five Vatican-appointed bishops.

But the new regulations aim to smother the underground church by criminalizing the existence of clergy outside the state-approved database of the clergy.

“Religious clergy should love the motherland, support the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party, support the socialist system, abide by the constitution, laws, regulations and rules, and practice the core values of socialism,” says article III of the regulations.

The clergy should also “adhere to the principle of independent and self-administered religion in China, adhere to the direction of the Sinicization of religion in China, operate to maintain national unity, national unity, religious harmony and social stability,” it says.

Hundreds of underground Catholic clergy have refused to register with the state-approved database because they are unwilling to obey atheistic dictates in the services of the Church.

However, under the new regulations, clergy who are not registered with the state could be arrested and jailed if they perform any clerical office, Catholic insiders say.

A church observer said the new regulations are a legal tool to intensify the crackdown on underground clergy and annihilate the underground church.

Mainland Catholic leaders have been skeptical about the Sino-Vatican deal ever since it was signed, pointing to Beijing’s lack of respect for international deals and conventions in pushing communist ideology in China.



Mgr. Andrea Han Jingtao dies

23rd February 2021

Agenzia Fides -

ASIA/CHINA - Mgr. Andrea Han Jingtao dies: after 27 years of forced labor, he devoted himself primarily to the formation of priests, nuns and lay people

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - Bishop Andrew Han Jingtao, of the "unofficial" community of Siping (Jilin), died in the night between 30 and 31 December 2020. Born on July 26, 1921, to a devoted Catholic family from Shanwanzi, Weichang County, Hebei, the family moved to Linxi County, Inner Mongolia during his childhood. In 1932 he entered the Minor Seminary of Siping and in 1940 joined the Major Seminary of Changchun. He was ordained a priest on 14 December 1947. Because of his Catholic faith and his loyalty to the Pope, he was arrested in 1953 and, after a period of imprisonment, he was sentenced to forced labor for 27 years, 6 of which he spent in isolation in a bunker.

In 1980, thanks to the intervention of Vice-President Deng Xiaoping, he was released in consideration of the services that he, as a scholar, could render to the State. He worked as a lecturer at Changchun Normal University and at The Institute for the History of Ancient Civilizations at the Northeast Normal University, with the title of associate professor. He introduced many Chinese students to the study of Latin and Greek as well as classical western culture. After dedicating himself to his studies at an early age, he was regarded by the faithful as a "giant of culture and faith", but was also valued for his commitment to civil education. His main works include the translation of the Summa Theologiae of St. Thomas Aquinas into Chinese.

On May 6, 1982 he was secretly consecrated Coadjutor Bishop of Siping, of which in 1986, after the death of Mgr. Chang Zhenguo, he became ordinary bishop. As such, he was particularly involved in the formation of priests, nuns and lay people, not failing to sensitize all the faithful about evangelization and charity. In the diocese he founded the Legio Mariae and the Religious Congregation of Mount Calvary, a male branch and a female branch. In 1993 he founded the first health center and the first retirement home of the diocese, as well as an orphanage.

In recent years, Bishop Han Jingtao lived under the tight control of the police. After the funeral, in which neither the clergy nor the faithful were able to participate, the remains were cremated. Thanks to the urgent requests of the members of his family, the local authorities allowed that the ashes of the Bishop to be placed in the cemetery of his native village, alongside his parents. No religious sign or title of Bishop is present on his tombstone.



Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide died

23rd February 2021


ASIA/CHINA - Bishop Joseph Zong Huaide died at the age of 100: he devoted himself to prayer and charitable works

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - On January 5, 2021 at 8 p.m., His. Exc. Mgr. Joseph Zong Huaide, Bishop emeritus of Sanyuan, in the province of Shaanxi (Mainland China) died.

He was born on June 16, 1920 in a village in Wuguanfang, in Sanyuan County, the fourth of five children to a Catholic family. He entered the Minor seminary of Tongyuanfang in 1935.

After completing his theological studies, he was ordained a priest on June 5, 1949.

Later he carried out the pastoral ministry in Fuping and in Tongyuanfang, as parish priest and then in the Cathedral of Sanyuan. From 1961 to 1965, he was forbidden to exercise the pastoral ministry, which is why he retired to his house and began to cultivate the land there. He was arrested for his belief in 1965 and sentenced to forced labor in 1966. In February 1980 he was released and returned to work as a priest in Tongyuanfang.

On 9 August 1987 he was secretly ordained bishop and after a few years he was officially recognized as such by the civil authorities. On 23 December 1997 he was able to make a pilgrimage to Italy, where he was received by Pope John Paul II in the Vatican.

In 2003 the Holy See accepted his resignation. Since then, Bishop Zong Huaide spent his time in prayer and charitable service. His loving and delicate character made him popular with everyone. Numerous memories and praises for his testimony were shared on social media after his death.

From January 5th to January 10th, the body of Bishop Zong was exposed to the faithful in the church of Tongyuan: on January 11th, the funeral was celebrated there and the prelate was buried.

Currently, the Diocese of Sanyuan has about 40,000 faithful, with 46 priests and the presence of various religious orders for men and women.





March Updates 2021


March 2021



4 Updates



1.Cardinal Bo calls for week of prayer for China Church.

2. China orders clergy to toe Communist Party and socialist line.

3. Catholicism and Taiwan: A model of growing together.

4. Church in China: 2021 dominated by the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party.




    Cardinal Bo calls for week of prayer for China Church

14th March 2021

UCA News -

Cardinal Bo calls for week of prayer for China Church

Myanmar prelate hopes China can become a force for good and a protector of the vulnerable and marginalized

UCA News reporter

Cardinal Charles Bo, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), has called on the faithful to join a week of prayer for the Chinese Church from May 23-30.

In 2007, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI published his letter to the Church in the People’s Republic of China and designated May 24, the feast of Our Lady of Help of Christians, as an annual worldwide day of prayer for the Chinese Church.

“We should ask Our Lady of Sheshan to protect all humanity and therefore the dignity of each and every person in China, in the words of Pope Benedict’s prayer, to believe, to hope, to love,” said Cardinal Bo in a March 14 statement.

“We are reminded that the whole of the Church’s social doctrine, in fact, develops from the principle that affirms the inviolable dignity of the human person.”

He said he is expressing his love for the people of China, his respect for their ancient civilization and extraordinary economic growth.

“My hope is that as it continues to rise as a global power, it may become a force for good and a protector of the rights of the most vulnerable and marginalized in the world,” Cardinal Bo noted.

The cardinal said that since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the people of China have faced increasing challenges that impact us all.

“It is right that we should pray not only for the Church but for all persons in the People’s Republic of China,” he stressed.

The 73-year-old prelate said many parts of the world are currently challenged, including his own country of Myanmar, but in a spirit of solidarity it is right to focus not only on our own challenges but to also pray for others.

Myanmar is facing political turmoil following the Feb. 1 coup that sparked daily protests against military rule for more than a month.

More than 70 people have been killed and nearly 2,000 people arrested in a bloody crackdown by security forces.

Cardinal Bo quoted Pope Francis as saying that “there is also a deep hunger, the hunger for a happiness that only God can satisfy, the hunger for dignity.”

He has called for prayer for each person in China that they may seek and realize the full measure of happiness that our creator has given to them.

In a powerful message, the outspoken archbishop of Yangon last year called on China’s regime to apologize and offer compensation to the world for the damage caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“Let me be clear — it is the Chinese Communist Party that has been responsible, not the people of China, and no one should respond to this crisis with racial hatred toward the Chinese,” Cardinal Bo said in a message in April 2020.
China orders clergy to toe Communist Party and socialist line.
19th February 2021
South China Morning Post

China orders clergy to toe Communist Party and socialist line

* New national rules bring together party and government guidelines and go into effect in May
*Requirements on clerical income follow the prosecution of a house church leader over her handling of contributions from her congregation

By: Mimi Lau

New national rules requiring clergy to embrace the leadership of the Communist Party and China’s socialist system are expected to compound limits on religious freedom in the country, according to analysts.

The new rules – Measures for the Administration of Religious Personnel – were published by the State Administration for Religious Affairs early this month and will go into effect in May.

While the measures underlined many of the controls already in place under existing supervisory guidelines, their packaging as a national regulation gave them greater political force, one observer said.

Since 2015, President Xi Jinping has sought to bring religions such as Islam and Christianity under the party’s control through a process of “Sinicisation”, and stressed that religious adherents must reject foreign influence.

Religious leaders, clergy and religious teachers must now actively promote the Sinicisation policy to bring religions under party control and in line with Chinese culture.

The rules stipulate that they must safeguard national security and ethnic unity.

Under the measures, clergy cannot accept overseas appointments or engage in religious activities that would endanger China’s national security. They must comply with a detailed registration process and can only serve one congregation at any one time.

The new rules also state that Catholic bishops must be approved and ordained by the Bishops Conference of the Catholic Church in China.

But this will not affect the 2018 Sino-Vatican agreement giving the Pope a final say over bishop candidates in China, according to Anthony Lam Sui-ki, a Catholic affairs specialist at Hong Kong Shue Yan University.

“All bishop appointments must receive final approval from the Pope before consecration can happen,” Lam said.

Carsten Vala, a political scientist at Loyola University Maryland specialising in state-church relations in China, said codifying the internal guidelines as national regulations would give them greater legitimacy and power.

“[Another] political rationale is to further restrict religious activities and religious leaders,” Vala said.

The regulations also stress that members of the clergy must be paid through open and legitimate channels and must obtain official approval before they can train overseas.

It follows the trial of Protestant house church pastor Hao Zhiwei from Erzhou in Hubei province, over her handling of contributions from church members.

Hao is awaiting a verdict, and a decision in her case could set a legal precedent for others involving house church leaders, who usually use their private bank accounts to manage contributions.

“This has led to state accusations that house church clergy are defrauding the followers ... even though the state has left no other means for such congregations to manage finances when the house church congregations reject registration under the Three-Self authority,” Vala said.

The party-controlled Three-Self Patriotic Movement and China Christian Council oversee Protestant churches in China but many house churches refuse to register, citing differences over theology and separation from the state.

Yang Fenggang, a professor of religion in China at Purdue University in Indiana, said that the new rules would add to the administrative burden of religious affairs officials, making it tougher for them to enforce rules on informal religious activities.

“Whenever the regulation defines what is allowed and what is not, it sets the boundaries, but the party-state approved clergy may evade and cross the boundaries in creative ways,” Yang said.

*** Mimi Lau covers human rights, religion and civil society in China. She spent seven years in southern China as the Post's Guangzhou Correspondent before returning to Hong Kong in 2017. Today, Mimi continues to pursue stories across the country, monitoring and reporting on key political and civil issues. She has won numerous awards for her work.
Catholicism and Taiwan: A model of growing together.
17th February 2021

UCA News -


Catholicism and Taiwan: A model of growing together


Taiwan has shown how society can benefit when ethnic and religious diversities are acknowledged and human rights are upheld


By: Rock Ronald Rozario


On July 18 last year, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen attended the installation ceremony of Archbishop Thomas Chung An-zu of Taipei in the nation’s capital.


Besides greeting and posing for photographs with the new archbishop, President Tsai delivered a speech where she hailed the Church’s century-long presence as having been vital for the development of Taiwan.


"Over the past few decades, the Church has helped Taiwan society in so many ways and at so many levels that it is impossible to describe them in a few words or a few days," Tsai said.


The gesture of amity and solidarity from the outspoken leader had political connotations, most likely aimed at communist China some 160 kilometers away, where Christians and other religious minorities are persecuted in a strikingly contrasting sociopolitical scenario.


The nation’s first female president has recently enraged Chinese authorities by supporting the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and by offering a haven to victims of the former British colony’s draconian national security law.


Taiwan is a sovereign, democratic nation even though it has never officially declared independence, but China still considers Taiwan as one of its provinces and has threatened to annex it militarily. It does not have sovereign status at the United Nations, at the behest of China, yet it has diplomatic relations with 14 countries and maintains unofficial and economic relations with some 47 states. The Vatican is the only European state to have diplomatic ties with Taiwan while the United States is its strongest ally.


Taiwan has expressed disquiet over a secretive Vatican-China deal signed in 2018 over bishop appointments, and it has warned the Holy See against cozying up to a communist regime that violates religious and human rights.


In the Republic of China, as Taiwan is officially known, Christianity has become very much part of national life in a country that embraces diversity of faiths and ethnicities for the common good and integrated development.


About 4 percent of Taiwan’s nearly 24 million-strong population are Christians, while Buddhists make up about 35 percent, Taoists 33 percent and non-religious about 19 percent.


Catholic missionaries first arrived in Taiwan in 1626 when six Dominican priests led by Father Bartolome Martinez joined a Spanish expedition team. The island, then called Formosa, was under the Dutch East India Company and was inhabited mostly by Taiwanese aboriginals.


However, it took another two centuries before missionaries from the Philippines arrived again to establish a permanent Catholic presence. In 1859, the Dominicans returned and started evangelizing among aboriginals and migrants from mainland China, mostly from the provinces of Fujian and Guangdong.


Shortly after the re-emergence of the Catholic Church, Presbyterians from Britain, the US and Canada landed in Taiwan. Although Christians are a minority, Protestants have played an important role in politics thanks to their involvement in democracy movements. Since 1949, four Taiwanese presidents have been Protestant Christians. Chen Chien-jen, a Catholic epidemiologist, served as vice president from 2016-20.


For more than 160 years, the Church has not only played an important role in developing the nation but also acted as a vital bridge between the nation, the Vatican and China despite the atheist republic’s overarching political and military maneuvering.


Form about 5,000 members in 1949, the Taiwanese Church today has an estimated 300,000 Catholics in one archdiocese and six dioceses, with a significant number being refugees from mainland China. Migrant Catholics, mostly Vietnamese, Filipinos and Indonesians, are estimated to comprise around 100,000.


The exodus of many Catholics from China over the decades is intertwined with Taiwan’s tumultuous political history starting from 1949, when the Chinese Nationalist Party led by Chiang Kai-shek along with about one million supporters and 800,000 troops fled mainland China and settled on the island following defeat to the communists spearheaded by Mao Zedong.


Chiang Kai-shek ruled Taiwan as a military dictator from 1950 until his death in 1975. His son, Chiang Ching-kuo, ruled the island from 1978-88. Under Chiang Kai-shek’s regime, hundreds of majority Taiwanese accused of being anti-government were oppressed, imprisoned and executed in what was known as the White Terror. The dynastic and despotic rule ended as the nation gradually moved to democracy with legislative reforms in the 1980s to 1990s.


Economic boom


Due to liberal and expansionist trade policies, Taiwan has seen an economic boom, especially in computer electronics. By 1986, Taiwan had become one of the world’s largest producers of computer terminals, circuit boards, monitors and electronic calculators. Today, the manufacturing sector is the mainstay of the nation’s US$605 billion economy, which has not faltered amid Covid-19 as Taiwan was highly successful in battling the pandemic with only 937 cases and nine deaths.


Throughout Taiwan’s history, religious groups, especially Christians, didn’t face any major persecution thanks to their international connections, although the faith didn’t attract ethnic Taiwanese who followed their folk religion influenced by Buddhism and Taoism.


Thus, most Catholics in Taiwan as well as most Taiwanese priests are descendants of migrants and refugees from China. Initially, the Church had to battle pro-integration and pro-independence groups within itself.


It has been a long-running challenge to convince converts to attend church liturgy once a week as traditional faiths such as Buddhism and Taoism don’t make it mandatory for the faithful to visit temples.


The state refrained from interfering in the Church’s affairs and the Church operated independently to engage in national development.


The Church in Taiwan runs about 50 schools, colleges and universities to educate thousands of pupils each year. Fujen Catholic University in Taipei is an internationally acclaimed institution. Two other prominent Catholic universities are Providence University and Wenzao Ursuline University of Languages.


Taiwan Catholic Regional Seminary in Taipei is a melting pot for training priests from all over East Asia including China.


The Church also operates seven large hospitals and about 100 nursing homes that offer standard but affordable healthcare services. A large chunk of the Church’s pastoral care is dedicated to immigrants from various countries.


During the Cultural Revolution (1966-76) in Maoist China, the Taiwanese Church was a vital passage for the Vatican to get information and provide support to persecuted Chinese churches. The Church also launched its Bridging Endeavor project to provide a genuine assessment of communist China for left-wing intellectuals and students in the West who had a great interest in Maoism.


As the Church found its place in the diverse religious landscape of Taiwan, it provided opportunities for members to engage in the Focolore Movement and experience monastic communities, pastoral ministries and dialogues on morality, sociocultural and environmental issues with Buddhists and Taoists.


Missionaries also helped sustain the local language and culture. Maryknoll missionaries, who arrived in Taiwan in the 1950s, learned the language to work among Taiwanese people, which was once forbidden. Maryknoll has also operated Friendship House in downtown Taipei since 1974 to serve Catholics who moved to the city for work.


Priests from the Bethlehem Mission Society (SMB) worked extensively among ethnic aboriginal people in Hualein where they founded schools and hospitals. The missionaries also translated the New Testament to the native language, which was close to extinct. Their great efforts paid off and in 1998 the first aboriginal bishop, John Baptist Tseng Chien-tsi, an ethnic Ami, was ordained. He retired in 2017.


Close ties with mainland


Despite being separate from the mainland, the Catholic Church in Taiwan has continued to maintain close ties with both the state-sponsored and underground churches in China for decades. Almost all liturgical books composed in Mandarin Chinese and used in China are from Taiwan.


The Taiwan Church often sends priest-professors to teach in Chinese seminaries run by the state-run and underground churches. However, Taiwanese priests often cannot celebrate Mass openly in China out of fear of a state backlash.


As of 2020, there were 664 diocesan and religious priests and about 1,033 nuns in Taiwan. Yet the Church faces challenges to get priestly and religious vocations. In an interview, former Taipei archbishop John Hung Shan-chuan said: “The social status of the priests is not high. The people of Taiwan want their sons to be trained as doctors, professionals, technicians, financial leaders, but not priests.”


Interfaith marriage also poses a challenge for the Church. Catholics who marry non-Christians tend to stop practicing their faith. In 2014, Maryknoll started a Catholic dating site, Love Cana, to help Catholics find marriage partners.


The life and history of the Catholic Church in Taiwan is a great example of how the state and the society can benefit when ethnic and religious diversities are acknowledged and appreciated, and civil liberties and human rights are upheld.


This wonderful story should be a lesson for states and religious groups who are at war with each other, especially in China. Political and religious hawks need to realize useless fighting can bring nothing good, but harmony can bring peace and prosperity.


* The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.



Church in China: 2021 dominated by the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party


22nd February 2021


AsiaNews -

Church in China: 2021 dominated by the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party

By: Bernardo Cervellera

This year's work program for Catholics has been drawn up by bishops and the Patriotic Association. Deepen the history of the Party, the Long March, Socialism, aligning with the leadership of Xi Jinping. A Theological Forum on Sinicization is also planned. More than a "pastoral" program, it is a political program in which the "independent and autonomous Church" is exalted.


Rome (AsiaNews) - July 23, 1921 is the date of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party. The event occured in Shanghai in what was once the French Concession.  One hundred years after that date, in 2021, the Catholics of China will hold a symposium "in memory of the centenary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party" and will deepen their understanding of "the moving events during the period of the Long March", which laid the foundations for the definitive victory of Mao Zedong over Chiang Kai Shek. 

The information is reported in an article published in the state-Catholic magazine "The Church in China", by a certain Hui Jing, citing a preparatory meeting between the Chinese bishops and the leaders of the Patriotic Association, held in early February.

The symposium and the study of the Long March are just some of the events that will characterize the program of ecclesial commitments drawn up by the Council of Bishops and the PA for this year. 

The article lists "formation courses in collaboration with the Central Institute of Socialism";  preparatory courses for the national gathering of the "Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference" (held in March);  the "construction of the Patriotic Association", and much more.

Naturally, Catholics are firstly required to deepen "the guidelines of the 19th National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party and the 5th Plenary Session of the 19th National Congress", as well as assimilate "Xi Jinping's thinking on socialism with Chinese characteristics  for a new era”, strengthening “our awareness of the need to maintain political integrity, to think in general terms, to follow the heart of the leadership and keep in line with the central Party leadership."

If there are those who find this lacking in pastoral and religious terms, the program provides for the assimilation of the Party's vision of the Catholic religion: in 2021 believers will also be called upon to familiarize themselves with "the laws and regulations concerning the Regulation on religious affairs  and Measures for the administration of religious communities, carrying out the principles of love for the homeland and love for religion, the independent and autonomous Church, the democratic management of the Church."

Beyond the titles and slogans, 2021 will be a period in which the Catholic Church in China must "assimilate" the vision of a "State Church", subject in all respects to the orders of the Patriotic Association and to the Party vision.  And despite the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican, with the so-called recognition of the Pope as head of the Church, the principle of the "independent and autonomous Church" and of "democratic management" is reaffirmed, which actually means the submission of bishops to the  Patriotic Association.

In this political (rather than pastoral) program, the only element vaguely linked to the mission of the Church is that of Sinicization, of bringing Christian theology closer to Chinese culture.  And indeed, the program includes the convening of a "Theological Forum on Sinicization, [whose] topics will include rites, sacred music and art, etc.". 

What a pity that this too  is under the supervision and control of the Patriotic Association, an organization linked to the Communist Party which for the most part is made up of atheist officals.  And in fact, far from being an attempt to nurture faith within Chinese culture (a fact that has existed for a long time), Sinicization is only a nationalist translation of the Party’s political control over the Catholic Church.






February Updates 2021


February 2021



6 Updates



1. INFO from US-China Catholic Association.

2. Hong Kong Catholic nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.

3. A silent massacre of Hong Kong's freedoms.

4. 'Catholic well' supplies clean water to Mongolian families

5. Chinese Catholics urged to help state fight pandemic.

6. New issue of the e-journal „Religions & Christianity in Today’s China“ 2021, No. 1





US-China Catholic Association


Speaker series - Online event

The Vessel Overturned:
Current Views on Hong Kong Christian Civic Life

Presented by: Lida V. Nedilsky, Ph.D.

February 25, 2021
5 pm Pacific / 6 pm Mountain / 7 pm Central / 8 pm Eastern time

More Info please click the link



Dialogue of Civilizations

28th International Conference of the US-China Catholic Association
cosponsored by the Department of Sociology, Santa Clara University

August 6 - 8, 2021

More Info please click the link






Connecting Chinese and Americans in fraternity, faith, and mutual respect.

More Info please click the link





Hong Kong Catholic nominated for Nobel Peace Prize


3rd February 2021


UCA News -

Hong Kong Catholic nominated for Nobel Peace Prize

'Father of democracy' Martin Lee singled out by Norwegian MPs for devoting his life to the cause

By: Luke Hunt

Martin Lee Chu-ming, known to many as the "father of Hong Kong democracy," has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize after China’s crackdown on the enclave effectively dashed promises of universal suffrage made before the 1997 handover.

Two Norwegian parliamentarians nominated the veteran pro-democracy leader, saying he was “a source of inspiration for the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong and advocates for freedom around the world.”

He is currently on bail awaiting trial following his arrest last year with 14 others for unauthorized assembly in the wake of massive pro-democracy marches in August and October 2019.

Lee, a London-trained Catholic barrister, championed democracy for many years as Britain negotiated the handover of its then colony to Beijing and worked closely with its last governor, Chris Patten.

He was founding chairman of the first pro-democracy party, the United Democrats of Hong Kong, in 1990 and led its successor, the Democratic Party, while serving in the territory’s legislature for more than two decades.

Importantly, he served on the drafting committee for the Basic Law, also known as Hong Kong’s mini-constitution, which was supposed to guarantee 50 years of autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework while protecting basic rights including freedom of assembly and free speech.

Lee, 82, was nominated for the Peace Prize by two members of the Norwegian Conservative Party, Mathilde Tybring-Gjedde and Peter Frolich, who noted Lee had devoted his life to the cause.

“Martin Lee Chu-ming has pursued every avenue for over 40 years that has been at his disposal for the aim of securing freedom and safety for the people of Hong Kong,” Tybring-Gjedde said.

As a politician and member of the legal profession Lee had fought for a democratic constitution in Hong Kong before and after the 1997 handover, Frolich said.

“He has worked peacefully for democratic institutions, free elections by universal suffrage, and political and civil rights, even in the face of mounting pressure from mainland China,” he said.

Their nomination of Lee will anger the Chinese government and irritate pro-Beijing supporters in Hong Kong, where the crackdown on pro-democracy activists and their arrests have sparked a long-running outcry, particularly in the West.

Britain has responded, offering special visas with the right to remain in the UK to holders of the British National (Overseas) passports, which were issued prior to the handover.

About 5 million Hong Kongers are eligible and at least 300,000 are expected to apply, with about 7,000 taking up the offer in the last six months of 2020.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee normally announces the Nobel Peace Prize in October before it is presented in December. However, there have been exceptions when no awards have been made due to war or a lack of suitable candidates.





A silent massacre of Hong Kong's freedoms.

22nd January 2021


UCA News -


A silent massacre of Hong Kong's freedoms

As church leaders stand on the wrong side of history, we must hope that Catholics keep their soul and values intact

By: Benedict Rogers

Hong Kong is facing today its almost silent, legislative Tiananmen. No shots have been fired, no tanks are on the streets, no soldiers are pulverizing protesters. Instead, bit by bit, with every knock on the door, every arrest, every threat, Beijing is carrying out a massacre of Hong Kong’s freedoms and occupying every corner of Hong Kong’s public square.

There have been many nails hammered into the coffin of Hong Kong’s freedoms over the past few years, from abductions and disqualifications to deportations, unjust arrests and police brutality.

The imposition of the draconian national security law, the ensuing detention of activists and the removal of the entire pro-democracy camp from the legislature were among the final straws.

But if we thought things could not get any worse, 2021 began with the biggest single mass arrest of recent times. On Jan. 6, some 53 pro-democracy politicians and activists were charged under the national security law for the simple act last summer of conducting a primary election to choose their candidates for the expected Legislative Council elections, which were, of course, subsequently postponed for a year anyway, using the pandemic as an excuse.

The swoop marked the latest death knell for any hope of any semblance of promised representative democracy in Hong Kong. Such hope had already been snatched away in November when Beijing disqualified four pro-democracy legislators and their remaining colleagues quit in solidarity, protesting that they could be next.

But few expected that former legislators, candidates, academics, pollsters, lawyers and activists, ranging from the most moderate democrats to those more radical, would be hit by a dawn raid by Hong Kong police early in the new year for having conducted an electoral exercise to give the public a say in choosing candidates six months earlier.

We have since seen further arrests, including of 11 Hong Kongers charged with assisting 12 youths who tried to flee the city by boat last August. Among them are lawyer and district councilor Wong Kwok-tung, independent musician Fok Long-chai and a Ukrainian national.

In a shameful act of poor judgment, British barrister David Perry QC was hired by the Hong Kong government to prosecute not only pro-democracy Catholic media entrepreneur Jimmy Lai but also Martin Lee, a senior Catholic barrister and father of Hong Kong’s democracy movement, respected barrister Margaret Ng and others.

He rightly came under a torrent of criticism from fellow lawyers such as Catholic barrister Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, former UK justice secretary Lord Falconer and UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab, who described him as “mercenary.” Under the glare of worldwide condemnation, Perry withdrew, and rightly so.

The truth is that within a year Hong Kong has gone from being an open, if turbulent, city to a closed city of repression, fear and lies. There are a handful of courageous media outlets, journalists, religious leaders and activists who continue to push the boundaries, test the limits and speak the truth, but they are fewer and braver and they risk much more than in the past.

Before last July, I was in daily contact with friends in Hong Kong, talking freely, exchanging ideas, communicating a mix of political ideas, spiritual encouragement and informal jokes. Today, I hardly hear from anyone on the ground in Hong Kong and I am ultra-cautious about contacting anyone — and the few I do, it is only to exchange pleasantries.

Attack on religious freedom

Besides the mass arrests and the political repression, there are two other dimensions to this all-out assault on freedom. The first is the attack on religious freedom; the second is the complicity of the banks.

Until relatively recently, some might say that political freedoms have gone but churches are free to worship and religious freedom has not been impacted. I always knew that was nonsense because as soon as freedom itself is attacked, it’s only a matter of time before freedom of religion or belief is compromised. And sure enough, it’s happening.

We have seen a police raid on the Good Neighbour North District Church, simply because its brave and inspiring pastor, Roy Chan, dared to stand between young protesters and the police in 2019 and effectively said to the police, “Beat me, not the kids.” But worse than the cops raiding a church is the fact that HSBC, a global bank, has frozen the assets of the church, the pastor and his family. It also froze the accounts and credit cards of former pro-democracy legislator Ted Hui and his relatives. This despicable conduct by a multinational bank should not be tolerated by consumers. Whose side is it on, its global customers in the free world or the tyrants in Beijing? HSBC must now choose.

The Catholic Church has a choice to make too. Hong Kong’s retired Cardinal Joseph Zen is clear on what side he stands, and his long and courageous record of speaking for freedom is there for all to see.

Hong Kong’s apostolic administrator, Cardinal John Tong Hon, is equally clear — he has signaled the siren of surrender.

In banning a public prayer campaign for Hong Kong’s freedoms, inspired by a call for prayer by the president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, Cardinal Charles Bo, and in issuing a heartbreaking instruction to clergy to “watch your language” in homilies, as well as refusing to stand in the way of the rollout of so-called “patriotic” education in Catholic schools in Hong Kong and issuing instructions to students in Catholic schools not to participate in protests, the hierarchy in the Church in Hong Kong has stood on the wrong side of history. That said, so many of the leaders of the movement for freedom in Hong Kong are Catholics, so many of them are already in jail or risk arrest, and all need our prayers and support. And, of course, we wait to see who will be appointed the new bishop of Hong Kong.

We have a choice to make now. Do we give up, sell out or fight on?

Catholic social teaching does not countenance the first two options. So, we fight on, for Hong Kong’s freedoms and ultimately for freedom itself, even if the price is high, because the alternative — selling our souls — requires an even higher price that is simply unacceptable.

I hope those in the Vatican, in the Diocese of Hong Kong and in institutions used to engaging with Hong Kong will reflect on these dilemmas and will, in the end, choose to hold their soul and values intact. For that, ultimately, is the choice we must all make. It is time to choose sides.

* Benedict Rogers is a human rights activist and writer. He is the co-founder and chief executive of Hong Kong Watch, senior analyst for East Asia at international human rights organization CSW, co-founder and deputy chair of the UK Conservative Party Human Rights Commission and a member of the advisory group of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China (IPAC). The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.





'Catholic well' supplies clean water to Mongolian families

14th January 2021


UCA News -

'Catholic well' supplies clean water to Mongolian families

Salesian mission plays an important role in the mission of the tiny Mongolian Church

UCA News reporter, Ulaanbaatar

Every day hundreds of people from at least 300 families line up to collect clean water from the Catholic mission station in Shuwuu, about 30 kilometers from Ulaanbaatar, capital of Mongolia.

This water point has been the only source of clean water for hundreds of families in the area since it was set up in 1998.

Throughout the year, many more come from the countryside to collect drinking water to take to their homes.

Safe drinking water is a rare commodity in Mongolia and water scarcity is seen a threat to development in the mineral-rich Central Asian nation.

According to the 2030 Water Resource Group, groundwater supplies for 80 percent of water consumption in the country have been constantly depleting amid the desiccation of rivers and lakes. Up to 40 percent of Mongolians have no access to safe water, while in Ulaanbaatar roughly half of 1.3 million residents face water scarcity.

Charity groups estimate that one in every four primary schools in Mongolia has no safe drinking water and students are compelled to use water from unsafe sources, resulting in the deaths of hundreds of children from diarrheal disease.

Mongolia’s water crisis is a common global phenomenon. According to UN-Water, about 2.1 billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water and by 2050 another 2 billion people in the world would push demand for water up to 30 percent higher than today.

In many places in Mongolia, especially rural areas, tanker trucks bring water to villagers from faraway water sources.

The water point was set up during the tenure of the late Bishop Wenceslaus Padilla, of the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbaatar, who led the tiny Catholic Church in Mongolia from 1992 to 2018.

Bishop Padilla, a Filipino, entrusted the mission center to missionaries from the Salesians of Don Bosco in 2016. The Salesians have continued to serve people during challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a recent video on the clean water service, Solongo, a local catechist, described the difficulties ordinary Mongolians in Shuwuu faced every day due to water scarcity before the well was set up.

“The well was an urgent need as the only water supply in the village was done by trucks,” she said.

Tsegmed, a villager and mother of four, said her family uses 10-15 liters of water for washing and cooking every day and it comes from the well of the mission.

“We needed more water during the Covid-19 pandemic to clean ourselves and the house more frequently,” she said.

Mongolia, a nation of about 3.2 million, has been able to keep Covid-19 at bay. It has recorded 1,456 cases and only two deaths thanks to a state of isolation since January 2020.

The pandemic, however, has caused suffering for many Mongolians as some 28 percent of people live below the poverty line, a figure the World Bank expects to jump to 35 percent.

Poverty in Mongolia steadily declined from about 60 percent in 1990 thanks to the nation’s break-up with the Soviet Union and switching to a market economy. Mongolia’s economic rebound was mostly credited to foreign investment linked to vast mineral resources and mining.

However, the excavation industry is also blamed for gradual depletion of groundwater in many parts of the country.

Salesian Brother Andrew Le Phuong, director of the Salesian planning and development office in Ulaanbaatar, said that despite the difficult situation during the pandemic they are glad to continue supplying water and expected to serve even more people in the coming days.

“Our hope is that clean water services and the other initiatives of the Salesians in Mongolia will become better known and attract more and more generous people around the world to contribute to our mission,” he told Salesians’ ANS service.

Brother Andrew also functions as an important bridge between potential donors or benefactors of the Salesian mission in Mongolia. He publishes a monthly newsletter on programs and activities of the Salesian mission that include a daycare center-cum-elementary school, centers for street children and disadvantaged youth and a technical school.

The Salesian mission plays an important role in the mission of the tiny Mongolian Catholic Church that has about 1,200 Catholics served by three churches.





Chinese Catholics urged to help state fight pandemic.

13th January 2021


UCA News -

Chinese Catholics urged to help state fight pandemic

Government-sanctioned church bodies ask Catholics to restrict activities

UCA News reporter, Hong Kong

The official state-sanctioned Catholic Church in China has asked Catholics to join their "thoughts and actions with the spirit" of Chinese President Xi Jinping's call to prevent and control the resurfacing Covid-19 pandemic.

The Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church in China and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association jointly issued a notice to all Catholic institutions and dioceses on Jan. 8 asking them to take precautions as people began to travel for the Lunar New Year festival, which falls on Feb. 12 this year.

During the festival season, some 3 million people travel across the country to be with their families in what the media calls the largest annual human migration.

The travel rush is expected to be less this year after authorities issued Covid-19 restrictions and urged people to avoid travel as the virus continues to trouble the country.

The notice said the pandemic had recently spread to several places in Hebei province and some people had spread rumors on social media linking the Catholic Church with the spread of the infection.

However, the Catholic Patriotic Association of Shijiazhuang city and the Diocese of Shijiazhuang promptly clarified and dismissed the rumors.

At a Jan. 9 press conference, Li Zhanling, director of the government Bureau of Ethnic and Religious Affairs of Shijiazhuang city, said there was no evidence that the epidemic source was directly related to religious gatherings.

The notice reiterated that "although there is no Covid-19 cluster in the Catholic area, we still need to be vigilant and strengthen prevention and control, especially as the spring festival is approaching."

Traditionally, Catholics gather for Masses and special prayers in churches seeking blessings for the new year.

Catholics should "fully understand the current severe situation" and "unify thoughts and actions with the spirit of General Secretary Xi Jinping's series of important speeches on the prevention and control of the new epidemic," the notice said.

The Communist Party's Central Committee and the State Council have made arrangements to follow "strictness and tightness" in checking the pandemic spread "and will not slack in the prevention and control" of the infection.

As travel has increased in the spring festival season, church activities have been relatively concentrated and the pressure on epidemic prevention and control has increased.

"It is necessary to minimize the movement and gathering of people, strictly control the number of religious activities such as the New Year's Thanksgiving Mass, and formulate various emergency plans to ensure safety and order," the notice said.

It called on priests and church members to guide everyone "to exert the patriotic spirit of the Catholic community to actively fight the epidemic" and abide by various prevention and control measures.

The notice also asked priests and church members to pray for the early elimination of the pandemic.

Several provinces and major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai and Shenzhen, have issued notices asking people to avoid unnecessary travel during the festival travel season of 40 days until the first week March.

In southern China, a similar notice was issued by the official church of Guangdong province on Jan. 10, urging dioceses and parishes to take strict prevention measures for religious meetings and activities.





New issue of the e-journal „Religions & Christianity in Today’s China“ 2021, No. 1


2nd December 2020

China-Zentrum e.V. – „China heute“
Arnold-Janssen-Str. 22, 53757 Sankt Augustin, Germany

New issue of the e-journal „Religions & Christianity in Today’s China“

Dear Readers,

Today we can present you the first issue 2021 of Religions & Christianity in Today’s China. As in other issues you can, first of all, find the News Update on recent events and general trends with regard to religions and especially Christianity in today’s China.

In his article “A Perpetual Migrant Church? 125 Years of Orthodox Mission in Taiwan,” Fr. Dr. Piotr Adamek SVD, Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei, describes how due to the lack of missionaries, the Orthodox Church has remained a migrant church throughout Taiwan’s turbulent history. The 125th anniversary of the Orthodox mission in Taiwan is an opportunity to look back at its history and its present situation.

The Xaverian father Dr. Paulin Batairwa Kubuya, formerly Fu Jen Catholic University in Taipei and now undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue, speaks about his book Meaning and Controversy within Chinese Ancestor Religion . In the book he looks at how ancestor related practices in the Chinese context were interpreted over the centuries. As an African observer in Taiwan, he argues that ancestor related practices should be regarded as a religion.

All articles of this and the previous issues are available for free on our website here:

We are grateful for your interest and support and would also appreciate any donation to help us carry on with this endeavor:

Yours sincerely,

The Editors

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Religions & Christianity in Today’s China - 2021, No. 1



News Update on Religion and Church in China
October 1 – December 2, 2020

Piotr Adamek
A Perpetual Migrant Church? – 125 Years of Orthodox Mission in Taiwan

Paulin Batairwa Kubuya
When Ancestors Are a Problem – Answers Questions about His Book: Meaning and Controversy within Chinese Ancestor Religion

In order to download these articles or the whole issue please click here:






January Updates 2021


January 2021


6 Updates



1. Bishop Andrew Han Jingtao, a ‘giant of culture and faith’ of the underground Church, dies.

2. In One Of China's Rare Catholic Communities, Christmas Is A Colorful Mix Of Customs.

3. Second bishop ordained under renewed Vatican-China deal.

4. The three great pillars of Chinese Catholicism

5. An unwavering bridge: Forty years building relations between the Church in China and the universal Church.

6. Msgr Thomas Chen Tianhao is the new bishop of Qingdao





Bishop Andrew Han Jingtao, a ‘giant of culture and faith’ of the underground Church, dies.


                                                                                                                                              31st December 2020


Bishop Andrew Han Jingtao, a ‘giant of culture and faith’ of the underground Church, dies


By: Bernardo Cervellera


A great scholar, he spent 27 years in a forced labour camp, and later taught at a university. He was also appreciated by prison authorities. Upon becoming bishop in 1982, he divided his time between academic and pastoral work. After 1997 he was under constant police surveillance. He was a supporter of the Legions of Mary and founder of the Women's Congregation of Mount Calvary.


Rome (AsiaNews) – Mgr Andrew Han Jingtao, underground bishop of Siping (Jilin), passed away last night at 11pm (Beijing time). He was 99 years old.


Described by some faithful as “a giant of culture and faith” of the unofficial community, Bishop Han was a great scholar from an early age.


His first studies took place under the direction of Canadian missionaries from Quebec, to whom the apostolic vicariate was entrusted.


His great culture was even recognised by the authorities of the forced labour camp where he spent 27 years (1953-1980) for refusing to join the “independent and autonomous” Church, following Mao Zedong’s directives.


Once free, the authorities hired him to teach English at Changchun University. A few months later he became associate professor at the Institute for the History of Ancient Civilisations at Northeast Normal University.


He taught undergraduate, master and doctoral students, and introduced many Chinese to the study of classical cultures and languages (Latin and Greek).


In 1987 he retired from teaching, but not from his Church and missionary work. Even before his imprisonment, he had focused on educating the laity through the Legions of Mary, pushing them to pray, proclaim and engage in charity work. At the same time he had started a congregation of nuns, later called “Mount Calvary”.


He said that in the 1950s, the regime tried to “get rid of the Pope's interference and expel foreign missionaries. At that time, I realised that the Church was facing a great challenge and needed great strength to resist; otherwise, she would not be able to stand up. This is why I decided to establish a religious congregation.”


In 1982 he was appointed bishop of Siping, but his ordination took place in secret in 1986. For several years, he had to divide his time between pastoral work and university commitments.


In the early 1980s, the government unified all ecclesiastical districts in Jilin province into a single diocese, that of Jilin. The Diocese of Siping, still recognised by the Holy See, coves sections of Jilin province, Inner Mongolia and Liaoning.


Starting in 1997, his home came under constant surveillance making his ministry difficult. Even the congregation of nuns he founded went through a difficult time: convents shut down, members dispersed, secret reopenings, members living in various underground communities.


According to the latest figures, the diocese has about 30,000 members, including 20,000 in the unofficial Church and 10,000 in the official one, with 20 priests and a hundred religious Sisters.


The diocese also offers some social services, including an orphanage and a medical centre.



        In One Of China's Rare Catholic Communities, Christmas Is A Colorful              Mix Of Customs.


                                                                                                                                 25th December 2020

Heard on All Things Considered


For the past 150 years, Cizhong Church in southwestern Yunnan province has been home to one of China' rare Catholic communities.

Amy Cheng/NPR


Cizhong Church in China's southwestern Yunnan province is bathed in a golden light on Christmas Eve.

The faithful are streaming into the church in full Tibetan regalia, with the women splitting off to sit on the left in their bright pink headscarves and silk brocades, and the men to the right in cowboy hats and shearlings. Neighbors wave at each other. Heavily swaddled children run up and down the church aisle.

The rare Catholic community has survived more than 150 years here in the village of Cizhong, just a few dozen kilometers away from the border with both China's Tibetan region and Myanmar.

Their traditions are a colorful mixture of Buddhist and Christian practices. The church embodies this amalgamation: painted Buddhist lotuses spiral around the balustrades, while Tibetan yin and yang symbols panel the ceiling.

Inside, several hundred of Cizhong's faithful chant Catholic prayers — with a twist. My companion in the pews explains their prayers and their Bible were originally written in Latin but were translated by French and Swiss fathers into Tibetan — and written phonetically in Chinese characters. Outside, church attendants light round after round of firecrackers to announce the official beginning of mass.

The traditions of the Catholic community in Yunnan province are a mixture of Buddhist and Christian practices. The Cizhong Church embodies this amalgamation.

Amy Cheng/NPR


Cizhong lies in a part of Yunnan province that is predominantly Tibetan and Naxi, another ethnic minority. They are both largely Buddhist. In 1852, the first French missionaries settled up river from here.

In 1905, Buddhist Tibetans attacked, killing at least two fathers and driving out the survivors downriver, to Cizhong, where the church they rebuilt four years later stands today.

"They further withdrew to essentially avoid the influences of the state. That withdrawn nature allows them to maintain that identity and that culture, despite outside influences elsewhere in China," says Matthew Chitwood, a researcher who once lived in the region.

Cizhong's remote location then helped it weather the decades after 1949, when China's now ruling Communist Party took control of the country, ushering in a period of political turmoil and often violent persecution of religious and intellectual leaders.

Members of the faithful filled the Cizhong Church in China's southwestern Yunnan province on Christmas Eve.

Amy Cheng/NPR


During this time, the Cizhong church was defaced of much of its Chinese and Buddhist inscriptions. It narrowly escaped full demolition because its hefty stone walls proved too difficult to burn down.

China today still does not allow free and unfettered religious worship. The state has demolished religious sites and imprisoned Islamic and Christian religious leaders.

A woman says a prayer during Christmas Eve services at Cizhong Church.

Amy Cheng/NPR


But now Cizhong is rising in prominence as authorities work to rebrand Deqin county, where Cizhong is located, and neighboring Zhongdian county as attractive tourism destinations. In 2001, the area was renamed "Shangri-la," after the fabled but fictional utopia of religious tolerance described in the novel Lost Horizon.


"Having this community of Catholics has also allowed the government to promote the community, you know, as a sort of a tourist spot because of this Catholic identity," says Brendan Galipeau, an assistant professor of anthropology at National Tsing Hua University in Taiwan who has done fieldwork in Cizhong.

Wine-making is becoming a draw. Cizhong's first French fathers brought with them grape vine cuttings with them from France, and they grow to this day in a vineyard adjacent to the church. More than 20 years ago, villagers began nurturing the vines once again and planting new cuttings on their own plots of land to make a range of full-bodied red wines and ice wines that have further drawn in tourists.

The region is also the site for official poverty alleviation projects, bringing in about 400 new residents relocated from even more remote villages nearby.

"There's a big concern the Catholics, who had been a majority, are now going to become a minority in the community," says Galipeau.

In the past four years, the local county government tore down nearly all the rice fields and replaced them with squat cement homes for the new residents, more than doubling the size of Cizhong. The sound of construction is ubiquitous.

So is the state scrutiny. NPR was followed by several government minders in Cizhong who questioned anyone NPR spoke with.

I tried to meet Xiao Jieyi, a French-speaking 90-year-old Tibetan Catholic who once aspired to be Cizhong's priest. Those ambitions were dashed when the church was closed during a decade of political turmoil in the 1960s.

Now, while Xiao can sing First Noel to us, he cannot talk freely. He receives a phone call as soon as I step into his courtyard: it is the police. He tells me - there are orders from above.

The same thing happens when I try to meet with Yao Fei, Cizhong's first resident priest since the 1950s. (The last one, Reverend A.F. Savioz, was expelled from China in 1952.) In 2008, Father Yao was sent to Cizhong by the state-run Catholic Associa­tion of China, which is not recognized by the Vatican, and now runs several masses a week.

Cizhong's celebrations conclude on Christmas Day with hours of Tibetan music and dancing. Worshipers bring large cakes — which they pile in front of the altar to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Later, the cakes are distributed to anyone who comes by.

Amy Cheng/NPR

A child smiles as she listens to men playing music during Cizhong's Christmas celebrations.

Amy Cheng/NPR


"Merry Christmas," he manages to tell me as he finishes receiving confessions before rushing off to mass. After the service, he remains surrounded by several state minders who also prevent NPR from speaking individually to revelers.

Cizhong's two-day celebrations conclude on Christmas Day with hours of Tibetan music and dancing. Worshipers bring large birthday cakes, which they pile in front of the altar to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Later, the cakes — as well as large vats of chicken-infused rice liquor — are distributed to anyone who comes by, including many Buddhist relatives who enjoy the festivities and help with the preparations. Many families are mixed religion, with both Buddhists and Christians among their ranks.

"Buddhism, like Christianity, has many sects, but none of us have disputes," said a Tibetan Buddhist surnamed Xu, who spent Christmas eve slaughtering pigs with several of the Catholic choir boys, for the communal lunch the next day. "It is simple. You believe in your god, and I believe in mine."

Amy Cheng contributed research from Cizhong, Yunnan.



Second bishop ordained under renewed Vatican-China deal.


                                                                                                                                                                                23rd December 2020



UCA News -


Father Peter Liu Genzhu becomes bishop of Hongdong in Shanxi province


UCA News reporter, Hong Kong

The ordination of Father Peter Liu Genzhu as bishop of Hongdong (Linfen) on Dec. 22. (Photo:


A bishop has been ordained in China with the approval of both the country’s communist regime and the Vatican in the second such ceremony since an agreement between the two was renewed in October.


Father Peter Liu Genzhu was ordained bishop of Hongdong (Linfen) on Dec. 22 in Shanxi province.


The ordination came just a month after Bishop Thomas Chen Tianhao of Qingdao, Shandong, was ordained on Nov. 23, the first ordination with the approval of the Holy See and the Chinese government under the provisional agreement.


The Vatican and China signed an agreement on bishops’ appointments in September 2018 for two years and it was renewed in October. The details of the agreement have not been published.


The episcopal ordinations were considered the authentic fruits of the agreement, according to a source from the Holy See.


Candidates went through the process of episcopal election from the local Church and the selections were recognized by Chinese authorities and approved and appointed by Pope Francis, the source told UCA News on Dec. 23.


The system is expected to become the normal practice of bishop appointments in China.


Under the provisional agreement, the election result is communicated to the Holy See and only after an investigation can the decision be approved and an appointment made by the pope.


The papal appointment of Bishop Liu was confirmed in November, a month after the renewal of the Vatican-China provisional agreement on Oct. 22.


The controversial provisional agreement, which has been renewed for another two years, aims to end China's communist government directly appointing Catholic bishops without papal recognition.


The ordination of 54-year-old Bishop Liu was held at the Catholic church in Hongdong County Square, according to the official website of the state-approved Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA).


The consecration was presided by Bishop Paul Meng Ningyou of Taiyuan, deputy director of the provincial CCPA. Other concelebrants included Bishop Wu Junwei of Yuncheng, Bishop Ding Lingbin of Changzhi and Bishop Ma Cunguo of Shuozhou.


At the ceremony, Father Yang Yu, deputy secretary general of the Council of Chinese Bishops, announced the mandate of Bishop Liu on behalf of the BCCCC in an approval letter dated Dec. 16 in which papal approval of the candidate was noted.


About 63 priests joined the celebration along with 200 seminarians, nuns and Catholics from dioceses across the province.


Bishop Liu succeeds Bishop Joseph Sun Yuanmo, who died in 2006 after a long illness.


Born in 1966 in Hongdong, Bishop Liu graduated from the Shaanxi Catholic Theological and Philosophical Seminary in Xian in 1991 and was ordained a priest in the same year. He was appointed vicar general of Lifen Diocese in 2010 and was a deputy director of the provincial CCPA.



The three great pillars of Chinese Catholicism


                                                                                                                                                          14th December 2020

US-China Catholic Association
Fr. Michael, USCCA

The three great pillars of Chinese Catholicism

At this time in the Church’s year, we celebrate the memory of Leon LI Zhizao (1565–1630), Paul XÚ Guangqi, (1562–1633), and Michael YÁNG Tíngyún (1557–1627). These renowned scholar officials lived during the Ming Dynasty and became ardent champions of a new teaching brought to China by missionaries from the West, Christianity.

All three men were thoroughly trained in the Chinese classics. They were highly respected for their integrity. And they rose to high position in the Empire. Paul Xu eventually rose to the rank of Deputy Senior Grand Secretary, roughly equivalent to prime minister of the realm.

These men met the Jesuit Matteo Ricci and his companions, engaging with them in wide-ranging conversations about everything from mathematics and astronomy to ethics and spirituality.

In their encounter with the Gospel, they did not view Christianity as a foreign faith that posed a threat to Chinese culture – quite the opposite. Yang, Xu, and Li were men who had committed their lives to the traditions of their ancestors and the good governance of the realm. They saw Christianity as providing a sure foundation for their efforts, its capstone and guarantee. Why be virtuous? Because the world has a moral structure whose Lord is a benevolent redeemer of our broken inner and outer lives.

Many scholars have misunderstood this historical moment of encounter. Even the great Jonathan Spence has treated the mathematics, map making, and Western science brought by the Jesuits as mere strategic efforts to gain a hearing for Christianity, as if religion were some category set apart. Such a way of thinking of religion as set apart in its own sphere is thoroughly foreign to the Renaissance humanism of the early Jesuits, who saw God at work in the majesty of the cosmos, the order of mathematics, and the beauty of friendship.

At the core of Jesuit spirituality is the imperative of St. Ignatius: See God in all things! And so the Jesuits, for their part, also appreciated how God was at work in Chinese culture.

During this season of Hope, as we await the Prince of Peace, let pray that those hopeful conversations that took in everything from math to ethics to spirituality continue in our own day and in the generations to come.

*** *** *** *** *** ***

Also see this article by Jean Elizabeth Seah reprinted in the Hong Kong Sunday Examiner. 

USCCA Website:

Inspired by the Gospel, the mission of the US-China Catholic Association is to build bridges of friendship and dialogue between people of China and the United States by offering educational, service, and cultural programs in support of the Church and the larger society.

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An unwavering bridge: Forty years building relations between the Church in China and the universal Church.

27th November 2020

Sunday Examiner - Hong Kong


On 1 October 1980, the first four staff members—Father John Tong, Father Angelo Lazzarotto of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Father Elmer Wurth and Father Peter Barry, of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers (MM)—opened the doors of the Holy Spirit Study Centre.

The primary attitude of staff members on this milestone 40th anniversary is thanksgiving. First of all, we must thank God for the many graces he has bestowed on our centre throughout the last 40 years. 

Secondly, we must thank John Baptist Cardinal Wu, then the ordinary bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong, for having the foresight to set up the centre to act as a bridge between the resurrected Church in China and the universal Catholic Church. We must thank the rector and staff of the Holy Spirit Seminary for giving us space for our office. 

We must thank former staff members, like Father John Cioppa MM, who in 1979, when he was on the Maryknoll General Council, assigned Father Elmer Wurth and Father Peter Barry, and later, Father Michael Sloboda to Hong Kong for China research work. 

We thank the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions, the Paris Foreign Missions and the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM) for respectively assigning Father Angelo Lazzarotto, Father Gianni Criveller and Father Sergio Ticozzi, Father Bruno Lepeu and Father Pierre Jeanne, and Father Leo Van den Berg and Father Patrick Taveirne to work in our centre. Father Carlos Linera of the Dominicans also worked with us for many years. And let us not forget Jesuit Father Norman Walling and Father Ray O’Toole of Scarboro Missions. 

The primary attitude of staff members on this milestone 40th anniversary is thanksgiving. First of all, we must thank God for the many graces he has bestowed on our centre throughout the last 40 years. 

We thank the Maryknoll Sisters for assigning Sister Betty Ann Maheu, Sister Maureen Corr and Sister Miriam Xavier Mug and the Sisters of the Precious Blood for assigning Sister Beatrice Leung and Sister Goretti Lau to our centre. The latter sisters served as editors of the Chinese side of Tripod (later replaced by Catholic layperson, Anthony Lam), while Sister Maheu was editor of the English side for many years. We also thank all the faithful staff, past and present, who have worked with us over the years.

Above all, we thank the members of the Ricci Study Team and all our benefactors, who have supported us with their gifts and prayers over these 40 years, and we ask God to continually bless them with good health and many graces throughout their lives.

Looking back, I think we can say that during these 40 years we have never wavered from the mission given us by the centre’s real founder, Cardinal Wu, who instructed us: “Build a bridge between our brothers and sisters inside and outside of China, promoting the mission of reconciliation through the gospel.”

Exchange visits soon began to take place. An example of visits abroad by church people from China, was the invitation in 1986 of the United States (US) Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities to 10 Chinese bishops, priests and lay people to visit the US. 

When Holy Spirit Study Centre first started, our initial purpose was simply to help the Church in China to get back on its feet. In the beginning we sent Bibles, catechisms and missals, and religious articles, such as medals and rosaries, to the newly awakening Christian communities in China. Then we helped the various dioceses, now numbering about 100, from the 144 in 1949, to apply for funding from overseas agencies to re-build churches, seminaries and convents.

Exchange visits soon began to take place. An example of visits abroad by church people from China, was the invitation in 1986 of the United States (US) Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities to 10 Chinese bishops, priests and lay people to visit the US. 

READ  You can change the world!

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The bishops were Bishop Michael Fu Tieshan of Beijing, Bishop Alysius Jin Luxian of Shanghai, and Bishop Bernardine Dong Guangqing of Wuhan, plus some priests and lay people. Father Laurence T. Murphy mm, who was at that time the secretary general of the association, organised the trip. 

The group visited the University of San Francisco, Notre Dame, Fordham, Saint Elizabeth’s in Convent Station, New Jersey, and the Catholic University in Washington, DC. In every place the delegation met local Church leaders as well as university personnel. Father John Tong and Father Peter Barry accompanied the group as translators.

In recent years, Father Bruno Lepeu MEP, and Annie Lam of our centre organised formation programmes for Chinese Catholics on Church-related topics, such as marriage and family. The participants and their Church leaders greatly appreciated these exchanges.

All the above activities have been written up in previous publications, most notably in a pictorial history Sister Maheu, then English editor of the centre’s journal, Tripod, edited for the centre’s 25th anniversary. Tripod, 197 issues of which have been published since 1980, started as a vehicle for dialogue with Chinese intellectuals. 

I would like now to relate some satisfying experiences of my own involvement in this China liaison work. One day during the summer of 1994 I went up to Jilin Province in China’s northeast, to visit some members of my missionary society, Maryknoll, who were teaching English in the Korean Autonomous Region. 

When I met the rector of the seminary, the first words out of his mouth were, “Qing jiao women yixie dongxi,”— “Please teach us something.”

Maryknoll used to be in charge of the Diocese of Fushun in that area. Since I speak Mandarin, one of my confrères suggested that I stop at the Jilin Seminary to see if I could be of any use to them. So that’s what I did.

When I met the rector of the seminary, the first words out of his mouth were, “Qing jiao women yixie dongxi,”— “Please teach us something.” The reader must remember that there were not many trained professors in Chinese seminaries in those days. Two old priests taught catechism from old manuals and acted as spiritual directors. The rector taught moral theology and a deacon taught dogmatic theology. 

Not really knowing what to say, I blurted out: “OK, give me a Chinese Bible.” I stayed at the seminary for three days. My next problem was what to teach the seminarians.

Luckily I studied theology at Maryknoll from 1961 to 1965, at the same time that Vatican Council II was taking place. Almost every day, our professors would tell us what was happening at the council. 

One day, in April 1964, our professor of New Testament came into class brandishing a piece of paper. Waving it, he said one sentence: “Now we can believe in Sitz im leben.” That was a German phrase which meant “situation in life.” 

The document, issued that month by the Biblical Commission in Rome, was entitled Sancta Mater Ecclesia, and was on the historicity of the gospels. It pointed out that there were three stages in the formation of the gospels: the situation in the life of Jesus, the situation of the early Church and the situation of the evangelist.

Not really knowing what to say, I blurted out: “OK, give me a Chinese Bible.” I stayed at the seminary for three days. My next problem was what to teach the seminarians.

German Protestant biblical scholars expounded this theory of Bible study in the mid-1800s. The Biblical Commission’s document declared that now we Catholic students of the Bible could accept the explanation of this process in the formation of the gospels. 

This explanation was also incorporated into Vatican II’s own document on Revelation, Dei Verbum, the following year, 1965 (paragraph 19).

I told my students in Jilin in 1994, that while the gospels are historically accurate, we may wonder why some things were chosen to be included and other things left out.  As a conclusion to his gospel John would write: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.” (John 20: 30-31) 

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I covered the characteristics of each of the four gospels. For instance, Matthew’s gospel has passages like, “You have heard that it was said, ‘an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ but I say to you, ‘love your enemies, do good to those who persecute you.’” One of Luke’s characteristics is “filled with the Holy Spirit,” whenever Jesus or one of the Apostles said or did something. John has many “I am” sayings, like I am the way, the truth and the life,” “I am the bread of life,” I am the Good Shepherd,” etc. I emphasised to my students that Catholic seminarians must know these characteristics of the gospels. 

I told them that the 1964 document of the Biblical Commission is an example of St. Anselm’s definition of theology, Fides quaerens intellectum,—“Faith seeking understanding.” 

The three stages in the formation of the gospels are tools to help us understand the background of the gospels. In fact, they were incorporated into the Catechism of the Catholic Church of Pope John Paul II in 1994 (para. 126), which however calls them by a different name: 1. the life and teaching of Jesus, 2. the oral tradition, and 3. the written Gospels. The footnote for all three is paragraph #19 of the Vatican II: Dogmatic Constitution on Divine RevelationDei Verbum.

That single incident in my life demonstrates what we have been trying to do for the last 40 years. 


We were not just passing on knowledge, but “a spirit.” Just as my professors at Maryknoll imparted to me a love for the sacred scriptures, so too, 30 years later, in 1994, I was trying to impart that same love for the Word of God to the seminarians of the Jilin Seminary. 

We were not just passing on knowledge, but “a spirit.” Just as my professors at Maryknoll imparted to me a love for the sacred scriptures, so too, 30 years later, in 1994, I was trying to impart that same love for the Word of God to the seminarians of the Jilin Seminary. 

I took my inspiration from the last chapter of Luke’s Gospel, when the two Emmaus disciples said: “Were not our hearts burning within us, as we were walking on the road and he explained the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32), or as Jesus did later for a larger group of disciples: “He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24: 45). PJB



Msgr Thomas Chen Tianhao is the new bishop of Qingdao

23rd November 2020

AsiaNews -



By :Wang Zhicheng


Officially he would be the first bishop ordained according to the provisional agreement between China and the Vatican. The new bishop is considered very obedient to the government's religious policy. He is a member of the Standing Committee of the National Patriotic Association.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Msgr Thomas Chen Tianhao, 58, is the new bishop of Qingdao (Shandong). His ordination took place this morning in the city cathedral, dedicated to St. Michael. Msgr. Fan Xingyao of Linyi, president of the National Chinese Patriotic Association presided over the ordination ceremony. The other concelebrating bishops were: Msgr. Yang Yongqiang of Zhoucun, vice president of the Council of Chinese bishops, and Msgr. Zhang Xianwang of Jinan, vice-president of the "liang hui", the "double organization", which includes the Council of Bishops and the Patriotic Association.

Some faithful have pointed out that the large presence of high-ranking members of the Patriotic Association is due to the fact that the newly ordained himself was president of the Patriotic Association of Qingdao, and since 2010 he has been a member of the Standing Committee of the National Patriotic Association.

According to some experts, this would be the first episcopal ordination to take place following the modalities prepared in the Provisional Agreement between China and the Holy See. But the consecration formula would have remained the old one, in which the mandate of the Council of Bishops is mentioned, but nothing is said about the Pope and the Holy See.

The new bishop is known as a loyal state official when it comes to religious policy. He succeeds Msgr. Giuseppe Li Mingshu, who died in June 2018.

Due to the limitations caused by the pandemic, the celebration was not open to everyone. But there were 21 priests and over 200 nuns and faithful.

Bishop Chen Tianhao was born in Pingdu (Shandong) in 1962. He studied in the Holy Spirit seminary in Shandong and in December 1989 was ordained a priest. According to official data, he was elected and appointed bishop of Qingdao on November 19, 2019.





November Updates 2020




November 2020


3 Updates



1. Does China really need more bishops?

2. All Saints' Mass in Shanghai Cathedral

3. The blood of martyrs, the seed of civilization: reflections on the life of St. Agatha Lin Zhao.






Does China really need more bishops?


                                    16th November 2020


UCA News -


Does China really need more bishops?


It is not good for the Church to structure itself as a territorial administration only


By: Michel Chambon


The recently renewed Sino-Vatican provisional agreement on appointing bishops has been questioned by many observers. Even though the Holy See has repeatedly reaffirmed the benefit of such a development, many commentators remain doubtful. For them, the agreement does not really bring any good to Chinese Catholics but gives more leverage to the administration to control the clergy.


In a context where political pressure and administrative interference on official and unofficial communities have increased significantly, many do not understand how the Holy See can present the agreement as positive.


The main critical argument refers to newly appointed bishops. Over the past two years, only a very few bishops came to office while many episcopal seats remain vacant. Thus, progress seems extremely limited while political pressure continues to increase. In the eyes of most observers, if the agreement is incapable of appointing new bishops, it only helps state officials to increase their anti-religious control. Thus, it brings more harm than good.


This rationale needs to be questioned. It is true that about 40 episcopal seats remain empty today. But which seats are we referring to? Due to historical reasons, the Holy See continues to apply the pre-1949 map of Chinese ecclesial structures. For Rome, the country remains organized into 143 jurisdictions (dioceses and apostolic prefectures). Yet many agree that this mapping of Chinese Catholicism is outdated and needs updates.


Over the past decades, the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association has unilaterally abolished or merged more than 40 ecclesial jurisdictions and established a few ones. Thus, in the eyes of Beijing, China counts only 104 Catholic dioceses. This means that Beijing and Rome do not share the same mapping of the Chinese Catholicism. And between their two conflicting maps, the exact number of needed bishops is unclear.


Still, a significant number of episcopal seats remain empty. Why? Is that beneficial or detrimental to the Church? I would like to take the example of one eastern province of the country to see how things work on the ground. Of course, this cannot summarize the complexity of the whole country. But it sheds light on factors we need to consider.


The province in question hosts four state-approved dioceses. Three are small in size but with a robust number of Catholics. The last one covers a vast and mountainous territory — almost half of the entire province — with small and scattered Christian communities. This extended diocese is the fusion of two apostolic prefectures plus a few parishes — a decision that has not yet been approved by Rome. During the Maoist Era and after, since they were no local priests, local Catholics were supported by clergy members visiting from nearby dioceses. Until today, this diocese has never had a bishop.


Before the agreement, one small diocese of this province had one official bishop and its ecclesial situation was relatively harmonious. Another diocese, however, was sharply divided between a vast majority of underground Catholics and a minority of official ones. While both camps had their own bishop, the state-approved bishop was excommunicated by Rome due to his illicit ordination. Thus, the 2018 provisional agreement reintegrated him into the communion of the Church. And to do so, the underground bishop was asked to become his auxiliary.


Yet tensions between priests remained extremely high. And just before the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement last month, the former underground bishop — a humble man with modest education dealing with a restless clergy and a devious Religious Affairs Bureau — finally resigned from his auxiliary office.


Then, if we move to the last diocese of the province, the situation is not really better. Before the agreement, the small state-sanctioned community had no bishop. For several years, more numerous underground Catholics were divided into two clans fighting each other. After internal reconciliation of the underground communities, and before the renewal of the Sino-Vatican agreement, the elderly underground bishop was finally recognized by the government as the official bishop of the diocese. No one can tell how this will reshape the diocese, nor how long the elderly bishop will survive. Still, things are on the move.


In sum, the province has currently three bishops — two with a fragile status despite a resourceful diocese — and one (or two) empty episcopal seat(s) depending on the map we apply.


Time needed for reconciliation


Where recent episcopal changes occurred, local communities and their regional networks need time to truly reconcile and find a way to work together. This cannot be imposed by Rome or Beijing. Yet this will impact new nominations across the province.


For example, one priest coming from the hometown of the former excommunicated bishop has been serving the vast and mountainous diocese for more than 20 years. Since his quality and modesty are indisputable, he has acted as diocesan administrator for years and would be the most suitable bishop. However, if the Holy See and Beijing appoint him, this will appear as more credit given to the circle of the formerly excommunicated bishop. In the current context, no one can predict how local underground Catholics will respond, and if they do not receive him, a formal appointment will bring more divisions than reconciliations.


Furthermore, many consider that in the vast territory of this rural diocese it might be better not having an identified head. Under the current decline of religious freedom, loose networks of Catholic communities are harder to grasp by civil authorities. Local Catholics like to repeat the saying: “The first bird to bob up will get shot.” Whoever will get appointed as bishop will become the target of political pressure. So, for a diocese with very limited resources, it might be better to keep a low profile — with no single head.


With these different ecclesial territories, each unfolding its own dynamics and influencing its neighbors, this province shows the complexity of the Church’s situation as well as the limited control of Beijing and the Holy See. Clearly, appointing more bishops is not a magical solution to all difficulties of the Church. This is clericalism. When a local context is sore, the Holy See knows how to wait before making a formal decision (see the recent appointment in Jerusalem). This is not weakness but cautiousness.


This being clarified, we may still ask what the Sino-Vatican agreement brings. Clearly, it does not multiply the number of bishops. However, we need to remember that over the past 40 years, Beijing and Rome have each demonstrated abilities to ordain more bishops. Both know how to be efficient and tough on that front.


Through coercion and kidnapping, the Chinese Communist Party has several times organized forced episcopal ordinations. On the other side, through special privileges and secret communications, the Holy See has let Chinese bishops ordain new bishops without papal nomination. So, if the Vatican or Beijing wants more bishops, they know how to get them. Yet those solutions have proven to generate all sorts of complications and disasters, not only detrimental to Chinese Catholics but to both authorities as well. In light of this tortuous path, the agreement appears as a bilateral effort to find an alternative solution.


The renewed Sino-Vatican agreement is about strengthening common ground acceptable for both authorities as well as for the different factions of Chinese Catholicism. Surely this is a slow process if we look solely from the perspective of newly appointed bishops. But the fact that all bishops are now in communion with Rome is a first step toward healing.


When Chinese Catholics and their clergy split into antagonist groups attacking each other, parts of the body of Christ suffer from other parts. This autoimmune disease is, of course, partially fueled by external pathogens that triggered the immune system of the Church. But since Chinese Catholics cannot be put into a sterilized bubble, the Holy See needs other options. Reintegrating excommunicated bishops, suspending institutionalized divisions, and regaining a certain control over episcopal nominations are ways to encourage the Church in China. It helps to regenerate some levels of communion within the Church. Yet the whole body needs to do his job. Fraternal communion cannot be imposed by Rome.


Therefore, I believe that evaluating the Sino-Vatican agreement only through newly appointed bishops is shortsighted. This is a very political, top-down and administrative approach. Having more bishops is not a solution to all problems. Moreover, turning the spotlight on bishops without considering the diversity of the Church is problematic. A tree cannot hide the forest. Which kind of ecclesiology are we promoting?


Among the many challenges that the Church in China is facing, there is one that we need to spell out. Unlike the rest of the world where local communities can be served by both, secular and regular clergy, the Chinese Church is supposedly unidimensional. Due to political constraints, the Church is only made of dioceses. Transregional as well as transnational religious orders are forbidden. Unlike in Paris, Nairobi or Buenos Aires where a single street can host a Dominican convent, a Franciscan chapel and a diocesan parish, Chinese streets cannot. Only parishes administrated by their diocese are allowed.


This undue political restriction may seem acceptable to some church leaders who look down upon the contribution of religious life. I have heard a well-educated Chinese priest telling me that the Church does not need monks since “we all know how to pray”. Others may use Vatican II to claim that bishops and their dioceses are the fundamental backbone of the Church. But this unidimensional ecclesiology fails to embrace the variety of Catholic needs and sensibilities.


Unlike elsewhere in the world where the Church is irrigated by two kinds of ecclesial institutions, local dioceses and transregional religious orders, the Church in China is forced to hop on one foot. Of course, underground networks of national religious orders exist. But their impact is limited. Thus, the necessary diversity of the Church tends to be institutionalized through an unhealthy opposition between “patriotic” and “underground” communities while traditional resources are left behind.


It is this challenge that we need to face. The lack of religious orders, especially male religious orders, is concerning in many countries. It is not good for the Church to structure itself as a territorial administration only. But in China the problem is worse and observers turn blind eyes. While the number of bishops is important, we should worry about the absence of transregional religious orders. Without them, the Body of Christ cannot deploy its diversity and deepen its spiritual roots. Without birds on its trees, a forest cannot really sing the glory of God. And it is this absence — unnoticed by most social scientists and journalists — that Catholics need to question.


* Michel Chambon is a French Catholic theologian and anthropologist. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official editorial position of UCA News.



        All Saints' Mass in Shanghai Cathedral


                                  2nd November 2020


AsiaNews -



All Saints' Mass in Shanghai Cathedral

By: Chiara Xu


Due to the pandemic, the number of Masses has increased so that fewer participants attend and approach the communion. Non-Christians often visit, especially young people. The seed of faith never dies, whatever soil receives it.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) – The Solemnity of All Saints, celebrated yesterday, was an unforgettable moment for the Church in Shanghai.

Given the unstable situation caused by the pandemic, it is difficult to ensure regular operations in the various parishes. However, in Shanghai, taking part in Sunday Mass was already possible in July, obviously with fewer worshippers but more daily Masses to give all Christians an opportunity for communion.

Yesterday, St Ignatius Cathedral (the Catholic church in Xujiahui) was packed with believers beyond belief. Groups of people prayed first in front of the Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes, and then entered the cathedral to wait for Mass.

When we arrived at the cathedral, the previous Mass had just ended. Every Sunday, four Masses are performed and each always has hundreds of worshippers.

The 10 am Mass started right on time. The celebrants headed towards the altar, accompanied by the sweet melody of the choir and the pipe organ.

My heart was pounding with feelings. I looked around and saw old people, young people, mothers and fathers with their children. As an international metropolis, Shanghai is home to Chinese and foreigners, but before God we are all his children, without distinction.

Inside the Cathedral, a solemn yet familiar atmosphere reigned. When they stood to pray, many worshippers kept their hands joined at the level of their heart, their head slightly lowered, an almost innate gesture, engraved in the depths of everyone's soul.

During the Eucharistic blessing, the assembly knelt in silence, their gaze turned to the altar, as if to fix hope and trust on Christ. Many were moved by the presence of the Eucharist.

Chinese Catholics have great faith. But non-believers have also shown a keen interest. Many people often arrive, especially young people, to visit places of worship. It is noted that the seed of faith never dies, whatever soil receives it.

Had Jesus Christ come as far as the Far East during his years of preaching, I think he would have come with the same mercy and love that he showed the people of Jerusalem, forgiving all sinners and behaving as he did in the encounter with the adulterous woman.

Perhaps he would not have condemned the "doctors" who were in power and who sought to eliminate the threat posed by Christ, nor Pontius Pilate who sentenced him to death.

* A. is a young baptised woman living in Shanghai.



    The blood of martyrs, the seed of civilization:reflections on the life of St. Agatha Lin Zhao.


By: Fr. Dr. Peter ZHAO Jianmin


The life of St. Agata LIN Zhao (林昭)


St. Agata LIN Zhao (圣亚加大 林昭)was born in 1817 in a small village called Ma Chang (马场) , located in Xingyi County (兴义县) in the Province of Guizhou during Qing Dynasty, China. Her house were still standing in 1891 when Mgr. Guichard passed through there. He also suggested to buy that house to build a church. Her father LIN Guoxiang (林国相)was selling salt for the family living. 


Her mother YIN Shi (尹氏),who lived to a ripe old age, was taking care of the family life as at that time no women could go out to work.


We do not know the exact time when this family was baptized. However, it is sure that they were converted by a Chinese catechist, St. Giuseppe ZHANG Dapeng(张大鹏). St. Agata Lin's father had been tortured several times by the county's local governor because he did not renounce his faith. When St. Agata Lin was born, her father was still in the county prison. Three days after her birth, St. Agata Lin was baptized by her mother, and later the family had to move to Longli County (龙里县), south of Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province, and they remained in Longli for three years.


At that time, there was a very popular Chinese custom: proposing a marriage by pointing to the stomach (指腹为婚) or proposing a child marriage by both parents of the children. When St. Agata Lin was a baby or very little, following the popular Chinese custom at that time, she was engaged by her parents to another catholic family of Liu in Ta-pa-tien(大坝田?) village. Perhaps her parents wanted her, when she was growing up, to marry into a catholic family. Compared with the population as a whole at that time, even today perhaps, Catholics were very few. So this child engagement was a good idea for both family and gave them catholic connections.


At that time, there was another Chinese custom. Only boys, if the family rich enough, were sent to a traditional private school (私塾) or a home school with private tutor in a village or a town. A large number of girls had no possibility of learning how to read or how to write unless the family was very rich. The parents, in a rich family, could pay a home tutor to come to their house to teach their girls. Therefore, the very ancient custom was that girls would not be educated and therefore they would remain within their husband's home to assist husband and bring up children (相夫教子). St Agata Lin's parents were not very rich. However, it is evident that St Agata Lin's parents were influenced by their Catholic faith and were so open-minded that they asked other catholic catechists to teach their girl to study Chinese language at the seven years age. This learning opened St Agata Lin's eyes.


Later, when St Agata Lin was growing up, her parents informed her of her “child engagement”. Nonetheless, she informed her parents that she did not wish to be married and she would like to be a virgin (贞女), to serve God. Because of this, her parents had to call off the “child engagement”.


When Fr. Matthew Liu(刘玛窦), a Franciscan priest, came to St Agata Lin's village for the Eucharist, she revealed her intention to the priest. Then, Fr. Liu discussed the matter with St Agata Lin's father and asked her father to send her to Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province. In the capital there were two schools, one for boys directed by a catechist, and one for girls guided by Chinese virgins from Sichuan, whose family name was Yuan(). A few months later, a persecution began and the two virgins had to move out of the town. Later, the first Chinese priest in Guizhou, Thomas Luo (骆文灿), whose ordination was on 23 May 1850, asked St. Agata Lin to initiate a girls school in a small and quiet village. This girls school was quite successful.


In 1852, Paul Yang's (杨保禄) family, newly converted to Catholic Faith, moved from Zhenning County (今贵州省安顺市镇宁布依族苗族自治县)to the village of Maokou (毛口) near Langdai County (今贵州省安顺市郎岱镇). In the 1 village Paul Yang distributed two books to a learned Chinese Lu Tingmei(卢廷美). One is Sheng Jiao Li Zheng (《圣教理证 published in 1852 by Bishop Bai (Etienne Raymond Albrand), Apostolic Vicar of Guizhou) and the other Zhen Dao Zi Zheng (沙守信的《真道自证)published in 1718 by the Jesuit Emeric de Chavagnac). Subsequently, Lu Tingmei's family were all baptized. Later, Lu Tingmei, namely St. Jerome Lu, was martyred with LIN Zhao. By the end of 1853, when Fr. Thomas Luo (骆文灿) came to Maokou, there were already more than 200 neophytes (men and woman) in the surrounding villages. These neophytes were mostly from ethnic Dongzu(侗族). Since the numbers of neophytes were growing rapidly and many of them were women, Fr. Thomas Luo and St. Jerome Lu asked the virgin St. Agata Lin to come to Maokou(毛口) to establish a female school to teach Catholic doctrine, reading and writing to the women and girls.


On 4th June 1857 behind the church in Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou, a virgins community was established and those virgins in Guizhou were asked by the Apostolic Vicariate to be admitted to this community.


Some time later the governor of Anshun(安顺) Prefecture, to which Maokou village was subject, released a public notice that prohibited people to become a Catholic. In January 1858, Lawrence Wang Bing(王炳), who was a catechist in a nearby county named Puan County(普安县), south-west by 100 kilometers from Maokou, came to the small village to visit Jerome Lu Tingmei to discuss a project to build an oratory. Catechist Jerome Lu had prepared some donations and rice for building of the chapel.


On 27 January 1858, governor Dai() with some soldiers, came from Langdai(郎岱厅), arrived at Maokou in the evening and surrounded the oratory there. Lawrence Wang, Jerome Lu and some other Christians were arrested. After being questioned, they were all released to go home but required to stay in their home. A little later Wang and Lu went to visit Agata Lin to let her knows there were freed. As usual at that time the female school(女堂) was separate from the male school(男堂). St Agata Lin encouraged them and said: “Prepare you souls. It may be martyrdom, or at least, most likely you will be taken to the town of Langdai for judgement.” Then, the two catechists returned to their home for night.


In the early morning, 28th January, the governor with Jerome Lu's uncle and some soldiers went to the river bank of the Maokou and selected a place for executing the death penalty. Then they returned to the village and arrested Jerome Lu, Lawrence Wang and a little later Agata Lin, the virgin catechist who was in charge of the female school. The governor ordered them to renounce their religion again.


However, they all refused.

After interrogating Jerome Lu and Lawrence Wang, governor Dai turned to St Agatha Lin and interrogated Agata Lin.

“What is your family name?”

“My family name is Lin”. Agata Lin answered.

“Which place are you from?”

“From Lao-ouang-tang, behind Hong-hoa-ti.”

“Your name Lin: is it your parents name or that of your husband when you were married?” Dai asked again.

“It is my parents name, because I am not married.”

“Why you don't want to marry?”

“Me, a poor and humble woman, I guard my virginity.” Lin answered.

“Ha! You guard your virginity! The whole world should get married. In renouncing marriage, you are destroying the five relations necessary for a human being. How can you come to Maokou? What are you coming here for? Why did you come here?”

“I come to teach books.”

“What books do you teach? You teach something to men, youth and old people?”

“In this place, the young girls ignore our language and our custom; I teach them that they can contract an honest marriage and then they can more easily have conversation with their parents and their husband. I also teach them obedience. At the end, these young girls can have their own honor which belongs to them.” Lin explained.

“You are a noble race of Chinese, how can you come so far to instruct Tchongkia-tse(侗家子, ethnic Dongzu)? What relationship do you have with these people? 4 You said you come to teach them. What you said is very foolish. All of you, and Teacher Wang, comes from Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou, to Maokou; you are from the place of Lao-ouang-tang, a distance of 80 or 90 Li (); you all come to the place of Maokou! You are all race of Han Chinese, but you are doing well with the families of Tchong-kia-tse(ethnic Dongzu)! What are you really trying to do here? I am afraid that you may organize something. I am afraid that you are trying to start a rebellion. As for me, I am the governor, and I learned in my town Langdai (郎岱) that you are destroying stability a lot in this area. Really, I am afraid that later the country may suffer a serious harm. As the governor here, I come here to examine your doings. …... You said you come here to teach the Tchong-kia-tse(ethnic Dongzu). Teacher Wang also said the same thing. I am afraid that you are provoking a rebellion. As the governor, I require that you go to abandon this evil religion? ”


St. Agata Lin firmely replied: “I will not abandon it. Lu Da Shanren (卢大善 ) and Wang Shanren (王善人) are men. I am just a poor and humble woman, 5 virgin, and what I can do to destroy the public peace? Your great man ordered me to renounce my religion. How can I do that? I received it from my ancestors. A poor and humble woman, I adore the Supreme Spirit, the Highest God for everything. I cannot renounce my religion.”


“Nonsense! You are stupid! You even do not obey the governor. You do not know the difference between the governor and the Tchong-kia-tse(ethnic Dongzu). Ha! You come and conspire with Dong Jia zi! No doubt, you come to teach the 6 young people and the old people, even the governor orders you to renounce this sect and to rejoin your family, you refuse to obey, you look down upon the governor! I can sentence you to death, don't you understand?”


St Agata LIN Zhao was sentenced to death immediately.


The death penalty at that time had a procedure: the local governor had to report to the emperor to ratify the death penalty. According to “Laws and Regulations of the Qing Dynasty”(《大清律例》), the death penalty generally has two procedures: one is the execution immediately (斩立决), the other is a delayed execution (斩监侯). Normally, the death penalty would be carried out by hanging, in some most serious cases, it could be by beheading. In Chinese law and custom, beheading as a penalty was more serious than hanging. Nevertheless, both sentences needed to be ratified by the Qing Imperial Court (刑部) or by the emperor himself. Of course, there were exceptional cases that did not need the ratification of the Imperial Court, such as during a war. However, there are also other cases where the death penalty could be executed immediately in its place (就地正法), such as in the plot of treason (谋反), rebellion(叛乱) or gathering together to challenge the government(聚众抗官). According to the “laws and regulations of Qing Dynasty”, “Those who spread and promote sects are to be sentenced as slave to ethnic Elute according to the imperial edict, and in the case of those who escaped, on the recapture they were to be executed death immediately.”


During the rebellion of Heavenly Principles Sect (天理教) in Henan(河南) Province, Emperor Jiaqing(嘉庆) in September 1813 decreed that with regard to rebellions “on the one hand to record and report, and on the other hand to be executed to death immediately”. Possibly, this imperial edict could be the most recent example for local governors in Guizhou to deal with the matters of Catholic catechists. This imperial edict, in 1855, was influenced by the Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864) in Guangxi Province. The ethnic Miaozu, at that time, together with ethnic Dongzu in south-east of Guizhou, lead by Zhang Xiumei (张秀眉 1822-1872), started a rebellion at the end of 1855 and in September 1858 they even seized Zhenyuan county(镇远县), which is located east of Guiyang by about 250 kilometers.


Yet, how did the governor of Langdai dare to abuse his power to put the three catechists to death? It is evident that the governor of Langdai used the exceptional procedure to punish the three catechists with a death penalty under the guise of organizing a rebellion by the ethnic Dongzu, spreading a sect in the area and gathering together to disobey the government. Because of these three issues the governor of Langdai was able to abuse his power and sentence the three catechists to death in a way that “at one hand to record and report, and at the other hand to be executed death immediately”, a further factor was that in the same province the ethnic Miaozu and Dongzu were just rebelling and making war against the government army.


However, even in this case, following the Chinese custom then, the three catechists still had a chance to be saved from a death penalty. There was a very old Chinese custom called “Dadian” (打点) or “Dadian Dadian” for the prison guards and even for the local governor. If the relatives or friends of the one who was put into prison wanted him or her to be less tortured or to reduce the penalty or to have a little better board and lodging, they must give some money to the guards or the governor. This was called “Dadian” in Chinese and it was well-known, popular and semi-public custom in Chinese prison system. For example, if one was punished by a penalty of “Dabanzi”(打板子, beating on the buttock)which was a quite popular penalty for people given by the local governor according to laws that determined how many strikes should be beaten. If the guards got some money or “Dadian” they would beat the people very slightly, otherwise, they would beat the prisoner as heavy as normal. Even though there was a custom that “It is improper for men and women to touch each other's hand in passing objects”(男女授受不亲), however this penalty of “Dabanzi” was the same for both a man and a woman. However, this long standing Chinese custom “Dadian” was seen as bribery by the missionaries and the Chinese christians were forbidden to use “Dadian”. In a letter dated on 14th September 1858, eight month later after the three catechists were beheaded, Fr. Paul Perny (童文献), the pro-vicar apostolic of Guizhou made reports about the three martyrs and said also that whenever Christians were put in prison “it is a rule in the Mission of Kooytcheoo never to purchase life. If our neophytes are poor, we support them in prison; and this being done, their fate, like our own, is in the hands of God.”


St. Agata Lin, as a woman, followed another ancient Chinese custom, foot binding. Therefore, on the road to the bank of the river of Maokou, where she with Jerome Lu and Lawrence Wang would be beheaded, the soldiers seized her by the hair to train her move so that she can follow the others. Hundreds people, indifferent to what was happening, followed them just to see the death of the tree catechists. At the place nearby, the River-god Temple, Agata Lin was beheaded. The executioner were not accustomed to performing the penalty of beheading, so that he chopped several times to cut off the head of St. Agata Lin. According to the custom, the garments of those beheaded, and their shoes, etc. were shared by the executioners. The day is 28 January 1858. The heads of the three catechists were hung up in the trees along the road for some days. One of the executioners who beheaded Jerome Lu lived in the Maokou village, at least, till 1889. In 1890 when Mgr. Guichard visited the village he obtained the saber with which St. Jerome Lu was beheaded.


Then, in the afternoon of that day, the bodies of the three catechists were buried in a nearby place. St Jerome Lu's son buried his father. St Agata Lin and St. Lawrance Wang were buried by some Christians named Lou Lao-pe (卢老伯--音译), Pe-y(白义 音译)Pe San-ye(白三爷) and Lou Tin-chen(卢廷真音译). Their heads were still hanging by the roadside of Maokou as the custom for the great criminals. Some long time later, one month or three months, by the order of the local official, their heads were allowed to be taken down and to be buried in a hill in Maokou. According to the tradition for the great criminals, the heads of those executed were not allowed to be buried with their bodies. Only some time later, St. Jerome Lu's son took his father's head and buried together with the body. Five years later, on the night of 4th January 1860, Fr. Jean-Victor Muller, with the help of catechist Joseph Zhang and some Christians, collected the heads of those executed, and 6 days later the bones of three Saints were transferred to the missionary college at Lu Chongguan (鹿冲关, 贵阳北郊) in Guiyang. Fr. Paul Perny (童文献) received them in pleasure respectfully. There, the relics of the three Saints were in safe keeping.



Reflections on St. Agata LIN Zhao's life


On 2nd May 1909, Agata LIN Zhao was beatified by Pope Pius X and on March 10th , 2000 her canonization with other 120 Chinese Saints was announced by Pope John Paul II. St Agata Lin's feast is celebrated each year on 9th July, the feast of Chinese Blessings and Martyrs, in the Catholic Church's calendar.


Of course, there are many possible perspective for reflection on the life of a Saint. The well-know wisdom is from Tertullian, who wrote in the year 197: “the blood of martyrs is the seed of Christians”. The first Christians at the beginning of Christianity witnessed to their Faith by offering their life. It is beyond doubt that their witness imitated their Lord Jesus Christ, who died on the Cross and He taught his followers that "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (Jn 12: 24) The martyrs become the seed of Christians because the Seed, that is the Word of God, produces much fruit in their life. “The seed is the word of God. ”(Lk 8:11) The seed is the Word of God, that is Jesus Christ. Beyond all appearances, it is in keeping and spreading the Word of God that the martyrs offered their life once and completely. The Book of Revelation clearly states that “I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been slaughtered because of the witness they bore to the word of God.”(6:9) The martyrs are identifying themselves with Christ. Identifying with Christ is asked for by Jesus Christ to his followers in their day to day life. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”(Jn 8:12) Thus, in the Catholic Church there are not only martyr Saints but also other type of Saints, such as confessor of the faith. Canonization in the Catholic Church is a statement of the Church that the person certainly enjoys the Beatific Vision of Heaven. As Pope Francis said in his recent Apostolic Exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate, “The processes of beatification and canonization recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and in certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death.”


We have the long parable of the sowing of the seed in Mt 13:1-43. Jesus Christ, explained this parable to his disciples. Nevertheless, his disciples did not seem to understand the parable quite well because later they approached him and asked: “Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.”(Mt 13: 36) Then, Jesus explained to them that “He who sows good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, the good seed the children of the kingdom. The weeds are the children of the evil one.”(Mt 13:37-38) However, Jesus did not stop here, he continued to say “and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels.”(Mt 13:39)


The martyrs and the Saints are the good seed, the children of the Kingdom, in the field of the world. The good seeds have been sowed in the field of the world during their life time. The good seeds are growing little by little and “When it was fully grown, it became a large bush and the birds of the sky dwelt in its branches.”(Lk 13:19) The time that it is fully grown is the time of harvest, and “the harvest is the end of the age”. This perspective allows us to take in a much more longer historic view, in understanding martyrdom. Particularly in the postmodern and multi-religions world of today, seeing martyrdom in this historic view is extremely important for human society and culture.


As well as this long historic view, another point should be mentioned. The canonization of a Saint, even a martyr, is not the Church making a martyr or making a Saint, but, as Pope Francis said, is to “recognize the signs of heroic virtue, the sacrifice of one’s life in martyrdom, and certain cases where a life is constantly offered for others, even until death.” Therefore, from the life of a Saint we evidently can see “the signs of heroic virtue”, “the sacrifice of one's life in martyrdom” and “a life is constantly offered for others”. These elements or signs of the life of a Saint cannot be completely separated from one another since a human life is a life in its totality. Nevertheless, as Pope Francis said, “Their lives may not always have been perfect, yet even amid their faults and failings they kept moving forward and proved pleasing to the Lord.”


From the life of St. Agata LIN Zhao, we can see the signs of her heroic virtue, the sacrifice of being beheaded, and her life constantly offered for others. Reflecting on St. Agata Lin's life, we can obviously see the good seed, the Word of God, that she has sowed. She is keeping and spreading the word of God in the field of the world. St. Agata Lin is, in her life, building the “kingdom of love, justice and universal peace.” Jesus Christ, whom St. Agata Lin followed, is the perfect visible example of keeping and spreading the word of God because He himself is the Word of God. If we go into detail of St. Agata Lin's life, we will recognize that the seed is growing although it might be not very fast.


St. Agata Lin, in her life, has broken the Chinese custom of child marriage. There was a very popular Chinese tradition of pointing to the stomach where the unborn child would be and it was time for marriage(指腹为婚); or the girl child, at an early age, would be sold to the boy husband and sent to his home for marriage( 养媳). In both cases when they reached a certain age, they could get married. According to reports, even in the present times there were still some cases of child marriage in China, although according to present Chinese law the legal marriage age is 20 for a girl and 22 for a boy. Following the Chinese tradition, St. Agata Lin was also engaged at a very early age with another Catholic family by her parents. In following this custom, it was a simple way for both Catholic families to avoid their children marrying into a non-Catholic family. However, when St. Agata was growing up, she decided to follow a call to be a virgin to devote herself to God. Then, she has to break the early engagement made by her parents. Within the Chinese custom of the time, this would be seen as unbelievable. However, St. Agata Lin, following her conscience and her calling from God, made her decision and asked the missionary to help her to persuade the parents of both family not to proceed with this arrangement. Encouraged by her faith, St. Agata Lin firmly called off the child engagement that was one of most popular Chinese tradition in that time. Considering this popular bad Chinese custom in that time, wasn't this firmly calling off the child marriage engagement a sign of heroic virtue?


After calling off the engagement, St. Agata Lin devoted herself to God and to educate women and girls. A Chinese virgin (贞女) at that time was some one staying in family, not in a convent, but devoted her life to God and, under the guidance of the missionary, to educate women and girls, to teach the neophytes Catholic doctrine, to baptize the new converts and the abandoned infants, to care for orphans and attend to the medical cares centers opened by the Catholic Church. According to the records, in Guizhou Province from 1855-1859 there were 121,841 abandoned infants baptized.


In the year 1853 there were already four medical care pharmacies in Guiyang(贵阳 ), Dingfan(定番州), Duyun(都匀府)Zhenyuan(镇远府). The abandoned 16 infants were already in a very bad state of health, some were even dying, and many of the infants died after baptism. The Church baptized the dying infants because she believed that the baptized infants, if they dead before growing up and committed any sins by themselves, they would enter immediately to Heaven. In the year 1855 there were total 2,600 Catholics in Guizhou Province and ten years later in 1865 there were 5,200 Catholics. Comparing to the population in Guizhou, the Catholics were small and minority. However, there were good numbers of Chinese virgin in Guizhou Province.


In 1723 the Yongzheng Emperor began to expel foreign missionaries and later Qianlong Emperor in 1736 also decreed the prohibition of people to believe in Catholic Faith. During this persecution period, the virgins played a very important role in spreading the gospel. The virgins normally lead some small women communities in their nearby villages according to the arrangement of missionaries (including Chinese priests), both hidden in rural areas and working in the emperor's court.


Nevertheless, the virgins had to face a heavy social pressure. According to a long Chinese tradition in that time, a widower was highly praised and honored for not marrying again. There was a saying that a good women never marries a second husband (好女不嫁二夫). Some famous widows, who were widowed for a long time, could obtain an honorable decree from the emperor. But if a woman did not marry she would not be tolerated by her family and by the society. A Chinese priest, Fr. Li Ande(李安德), reported in 1748 that a clan elder refused to recognize his blood sister and granddaughter because they became a virgin. People in the village would gossip that they were vampires or sinister evil attempts behind the decision not to marry. The governor of Langdai in questioning St. Agata Lin showed this idea clearly. He said that “The whole world should get married. Renounce marriage, you are destroying the five relations necessary for human being.” The five relations were Emperor and Subjects(君臣)Father and Son(父子) Elder and Younger brothers(兄弟), Husband and Wife(夫妇) as well as Friends(朋友). These five relations were under the three cardinal guiding principles, namely Emperor guides the Subjects(君为臣 ), Father guides the Sons(父为子纲), Husband guides the Wives(夫为妻纲). That was the reason that the governor of Langdai considered that a woman who did not marry was destroying the five relations.


However, even under this heavy family and social pressure, the virgin group in Guizhou Province as well as in other provinces developed very well. “The Christian virgins phenomenon was initiated by the Chinese themselves. In the beginning all Christian virgins were Chinese women. They chose not to marry and devote themselves to religious life. Albeit at the beginning they obviously intended to limit themselves for a life of meditation, but in 1770s, they accepted the mission for apostolate and social works.” Then, the missionaries in Guizhou and nearby province of Sichuan developed some regulations for the Chinese virgins. They would educate themselves in reading and writing, even though they were from a poor family. This was an obviously breaking through in the long Chinese tradition that girls seldom could get some education. Also, they started to make decision for themselves through having a devoted celibacy life. In some cases they would have a public vows in front of Catholic people. Besides these, the Chinese virgins could guide a female school as leader and teacher if their education and personality qualified them like St. Agata Lin. This was also a significant break-through in the long Chinese tradition that only men could teach and dominate women under one of the three cardinal guiding principles. St. Agata Lin, a Chinese virgin, a Chinese female, in living her faith became an educated leader and teacher in a male dominated rural Chinese villages, even if only in a female school. What a significant sign of heroic virtue in the Chinese traditional culture under the heavy unjust social pressure! Could we not say this was a kind of persecution for St. Agata Lin even if the Saint was not beheaded? In fact, Saint Ambrose has said, when the external persecutions had ended in his time, that “How many today are Christ’s secret martyrs, bearing witness to the Lord Jesus!” (Comment for psalm 118).


St. Agata Lin's life was constantly offered for others, especially for those uneducated ethnic women and girls. This constant offering of her life for others was significant in that time. The women and girls groups that St. Agata Lin was leading and educating were mostly Dongzu Ethnic. In the time of Qing Dynasty, these ethnic minorities were discriminated by the Han nation. The governor Dai from Langdai clearly showed his attitude to the ethnic Dongzu: “You are a noble race of Chinese, how can you come so far to instruct Tchong-kia-tse.” “You are all race of Han Chinese, but you are doing well with the families of Tchong-kia-tse(ethnic Dongzu)!” In the eyes of governor Dai the ethnic Dongzu, especially the women, were not worthy of being educated. Even to get along well with them was wrong and should be avoided. However, St. Agata Lin as a female of Han nationality did not take this attitude and encouraged by her Catholic faith she knew that the ethnic Dongzu “young girls ignore our language and our custom” and she came to teach them so that “they can more easily have conversation with their parents and their husband.” This basic education for the ethnic Dongzu women and girls were greatly needed! It is true that at that time nearly all women in China lacked basic education. However, St Agata Lin was instructing the discriminated ethnic Dongzu women! That shows the significant sign of her heroic virtue and her life constantly offered for others who were un-justly discriminated against by her own Han nation. In her life which she constantly offered for others, St Agata Lin was promoting equity among the nations by leading and educating the ethnic Dongzu women and girls. The purpose of her doing was not only spreading the gospel and teaching Catholic doctrine to the ethnic Dongzu women, but, as the Saint has said, “at the end, these young girls can get their own honor that belongs to them.” Helping people to get their own honor and their own dignity, that was the end St Agata Lin for which constantly offered her life. It is evident that in St. Agata Lin's vision this end could be reached through Catholic faith as instructed by her, and in her leading and teaching groups of ethnic Dongzu women and girls.


St Agata Lin not only constantly offered her life for this end but also sacrificed her life totally. Obviously, it is possible that if the Christians and missionaries followed the Chinese bad tradition or custom to make some “Dadian” or, in other words, bribery, St Agata Lin and other two Saints would have not been beheaded by the governor of Langdai. Yet, the missionaries had their principles that “it is a rule in the Mission of Kooy-tcheoo never to purchase life. If our neophytes are poor, we support them in prison; and this being done, their fate, like our own, is in the hands of God.” In fact St. Jerome Wang's family was rich enough to “Dadian Dadian”(打点 打点). But, the Christians in Maokou kept their faith and observed the rule of the Church, and they did not engage in bribery or they did not purchase life!


Nevertheless, this could be considered by Chinese custom as foolish because the Christians did not want to spend money to purchase life. St Agata Lin and the other Christians in Maokou witnessed in their life the truth that “Dadian” or bribery was a bad and dark custom that should be destroyed. They, following Jesus Christ, the light of the world, walked out of the darkness of life and the darkness of the culture, and by totally offering their life they witnessed to the light of the life and the light of the civilization.




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