The Faithful in China

News: Video Reports
by David Nussman  •  •  July 26, 2021   

China's Catholic history

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Today marks the last installment of our series of reports on the evils committed by the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP. Previously, we focused on the CCP's hundred-year history (see reports 1, 2, 3 and 4). But tonight, Church Militant's David Nussman surveys multiple centuries of history to discuss the presence of the Catholic faith in China.

The first Catholic known to set foot in China was John of Montecorvino, who came in 1294 as a missionary. He became archbishop of modern-day Beijing. Thousands of people converted before John's death in 1328.

But 50 years after he died, Catholic mission efforts basically vanished.

Centuries later, Jesuit missionary St. Francis Xavier preached the gospel in India, Indonesia and Japan. But he died in 1552 before reaching mainland China. In the years that followed, other missionaries made it there, but barely made inroads with the people and the authorities.

The task of evangelizing China fell on later Jesuits like Servant of God Fr. Matteo Ricci. In August 1582, he arrived in Macao, a Portuguese trading outpost.

After learning Mandarin, Ricci and his companion — Fr. Michael Ruggieri — began their first mission work in Zhaoqing in 1583.

They adapted to Chinese culture. But they also appealed to people's curiosity, showing them technology and culture from Christian Europe. 

John Zmirak: "They tried to show some of the achievements of European civilization as a way of impressing the Chinese — that they were not just barbarians. They were not uncivilized nomads."

Their fruitful mission work brought them to other parts of China and inspired future missionaries.

In the Boxer Rebellion of 1900, scorn for Western powers led to scorn for Christianity, and dozens of Catholics were martyred.

In the 1950s, then-bishop Ignatius Kung of Shanghai boldly defied the communist regime.

In 1957, communist authorities set up the so-called Patriotic Association, giving the government final say on picking bishops — not the Vatican.

Bishop Kung lived behind bars for decades and was made a cardinal. He died in the year 2000.

All those years, the underground Catholic Church existed outside the state-approved church, secretive and persecuted.

In September 2018, the Vatican reached an agreement with Beijing about appointing bishops. The stated goal was to unite the underground Church with the so-called patriotic church. But critics believe the China-Vatican accord has given the communists more power to persecute the faithful.

Cdl. Joseph Zen: "The Holy See, in this wrong strategy, they always favor the official church. They always tell the underground to be quiet."

A key figure in arranging the China-Vatican accord was now-laicized ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick.

As we wrap up this series on China, we'll leave you with a quote from Cdl. Ignatius Kung: "We should not be frightened when persecution comes because it is not by our own strength that we conquer the world, but by the strength of the glorified Christ, Who has risen from the dead."

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