Newsletter of the District
First Chinese Saints!
By Fr. Benoit Wailliez
and Vietnam saw their first canonized Saints in 1984 and 1988 respectively,
the Catholics of China were awaiting with a certain impatience the
canonization of their Blessed Martyrs. How could China be behind
these other countries, once its vassals! Moreover, on June 2, 1996,
the Holy Father canonized a French missionary, St. Jean-Gabriel
Perboyre who thus became, in the eyes of the whole world, the very
first Saint Martyr of China.
Lady of China
On this occasion,
the Chinese bishops of Taiwan, present in Rome for the occasion,
earnestly asked the Pope when would the large group of Chinese Blessed
be given the supreme homage of Sainthood? The Pope assured them
that it would be soon. Two months later, the Catholic newspaper
of Taiwan announced that the canonization would be for the end of
the year. But one must never be in a hurry when dealing with an
March 2000, the great news of the canonization of the 120 Blessed
Martyrs of China was announced officially. The ceremony was scheduled
for October 1 of this Jubilee Year. The choice of that date is
not indifferent: in the new calendar, it is the feast of St Therese
of the Child Jesus, Patroness of the Missions. Everyone knows how
she loved the Missions, how much she wanted to go in these far away
territories “where they kill for Christ” (words of St Theresa
of Avila). But October 1 is also the National Day in China, the
day of the liberation, of the proclamation of the Popular Republic
of China by Mao Zedong.
Child is set for the fall and for the resurrection of many in Israel”
said the old man Simeon to the Blessed Virgin (Lk 2, 34). This
was going to be true also of his Members. This is always true of
them when they walk in the footsteps of their Crucified Master.
of the Salesian Missionaries recently canonized
with the 120 Chinese Martyrs.
The hankerchief is stained with their blood.
It is interesting
to see how, even in 2000 AD sainthood stills attracts, edifies,
unites men of good will. This canonization was obviously welcome
by the Catholics of China, the real Catholics, those united to Rome.
But it was also welcomed by quite a number of the other ‘Catholics’,
members of the Patriotic Church who realize that there is no salvation
outside of the true Church, the Roman Church, and who see at the
same time the mean attitude of the communist government towards
the truth, and virtue practiced heroically. By members, I do not
only mean the faithful. Bishop Loseph Wang Yu-chung, of Taiwan,
said that a good forty bishops of China, including ‘official’ bishops
recognized by Rome have written to the Pope at the beginning of
this year to manifest to approval with the canonization of the
Martyrs (EDA, no. 317, October 16, 2000 p.20). Bishop Joseph Zen
Ze-kiun, auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong, also declared soon after
the canonization that “certain sources indicate that 85% of ‘official
bishops’ would have asked and obtained to be legitimized by the
Pope” (EDA, p.4).
added that the Chinese authorities are very conscious of this movement
towards Rome of their ‘Official’ Church, and, in this context, the
canonization of October 1 have been for Beijing the occasion to
paint the Vatican as the enemy of the nation and to force the ‘official’
clergy to chose between the pope and the Chinese nation.
1, throughout China, in most of the ‘official’ churches, priests
and bishops had received strict orders not to celebrate the canonization
of the 120 Martyrs taking place that day in Rome. Strong pressure
was put on them not to even mention that event from the pulpit.
On the other hand, national media related widely very strong statements
of the Chinese authorities against these canonizations.
priest in the South related how some functionaries attended his
Mass to make sure he would not speak of the canonizations. In many
other Chinese areas, all the testimonies agree to say that a vast
campaign against these canonizations is going on.
Zen, of Hong Kong, pointed out to the Chinese authorities that if
these martyrs were guilty of so great crimes, how come the Chinese
authorities kept silence when they were beatified, at various moments,
between 1889 and 1983?
In spite of
the ‘advice’ of the Chinese Government to keep “a low profile”
on the occasion of the canonization, the Catholic Church of Hong
Kong proceeded as scheduled with the ceremonies prepared for that
day. The priests mentioned it in their sermons and in some parishes,
it was possible to follow by satellite the Roman ceremonies. (EDA,
no. 317, October 16, 2000, pp.2-5)
episode of the Catholic Church in China highlights anew a big problem
which the missionaries of all times have had to face, and which,
from another point of view, modern Bishops’ Conferences are bringing
up again regularly. The issue is the relation between a faith which
comes to us from God but is proposed to us by a Church located somewhere—obviously—on
this earth, and the love of one’s nation, one’s fatherland.
Just as Our
Blessed Lord decided to be incarnated at a particular place and
point in time, similarly, He wanted His Church to be based in Rome.
There are plenty of wise reasons for the providential choice of
Rome: the center of the political world at the time, the wisdom
and counsel of the Romans, the Roman language, etc. However, the
real issue is deeper still. Other nations have other qualities,
and, absolutely speaking, Our Lord could have chosen other places
for St Peter to go and die. The fundamental point is that faith
is a submission of the mind to a revealed truth. Faith requires
humility. Faith is an obedience, a submission to Divine truth.
St Paul says
it clearly in his incisive language: “The weapons of our warfare
are not carnal, but mighty to God, unto the pulling down of fortifications,
destroying counsels, and every height that exalteth itself against
the knowledge of God; and bringing into captivity every understanding
unto the obedience of Christ” (II Cor. 10, 4-5).
into captivity every understanding unto the obedience of Christ”.
Making our rebellious minds and will the prisoners of His Sacred
Word, of His Divine Truth, of His Sacred Heart! Indeed. And that
mysterious submission to the truth “shall make (us) free”
(Jo. 8, 32). Faith does require humility.
I said that
the refusal of this submission is unfortunately not new, I speak
here at the national level. Anyone who has read in particular some
lives of the missionaries of Asia, has seen it. But let us not
go very far in time: the very same issue of Églises d’Asie, (received
a few days ago) from which I quoted the auxiliary Bishop
of Hong Kong, hits that problem, not just in China, but also in
India and Japan.
bishop of Beijing said that the October 1 canonization constituted
“an open insult humiliating Chinese Catholics and the Chinese
people” (EDA. p.3).
In India, the
fundamentalist Hindus have used the recent document ‘Dominus Jesus’,
on the oneness of the True Church, to launch new attacks on the
Catholic Church. A violent article dated October1 launched an appeal
to Christians ‘to accept Christ but to reject the Pope” but
the author to add immediately after that that for the disciples
of Christ in India, the time had come to chose between India or
the Vatican. (EDA, p.9)
In Japan, the
same document actually went almost unnoticed, except by a few theologians.
The main observation of one of them was that ‘Dominus Jesus’ was
too “Western” in its expressions (EDA, p.14). This is a
frequent remark from the Japanese hierarchy, as can be seen in their
interventions during the 1998 Asian Synod (see our newsletter May-June
1999, editorial). It was formerly also the case in Korea. More
and more Asian countries today will simply not accept foreign missionaries.
Sometimes, like in China, it went as far as forbidding even foreign
thoughts and ideas. The problem in all that is to present God,
Our Lord Jesus Christ, as foreign.
always boils down to the ‘non serviam’: I will not bow down my mind
to this doctrine, I will not submit.
Let us pray
for the conversion of all these people as the Holy Church as always
done in its history. There are so many good people among them who
would embrace the truth if it was brought to them, of if they were
free to accept it and practice it without persecution.
regnum Tuum, Domine!