Spring 2002 Vol. 22 - No. 124 Religious Trends in China Today


The Church in China: A Review January 2001-December 2001
Tripod Staff

Ordination of Bishops

January 18, 2001: Following the death of Bishop Duan Yinming, Auxiliary Bishop Xu Zhixuan, Joseph has assumed the leadership among the Catholics of the area with concern for the relocation of all churches being submerged by the Three Gorge Dam project. Bishop Xu was born on July 6, 1916 and ordained on April 8, 1946. He was appointed the Auxiliary bishop of Wanxian by Bishop Duan Yinming in 1989, and consecrated on July 31, 1989. Bishop Xu hopes to follow Bishop Duan's example of co-operation with all the Catholic churches.

June 4, 2001: Bishop Jose Lai Hong seng was consecrated Coadjutor Bishop of the Macau Diocese on June 4, 2001. Local government officials as well as 1,000 Chinese, Macanese and other Catholics, in a televised ceremony witnessed his consecration. The new bishop hopes to create stronger ties between Macau Catholics and their fellow brothers and sisters in China. The celebrations were both joyful and historical as so many showed support for the second Chinese bishop in the 442-year old diocese.

Deaths of bishops

January 11, 2001: The humble but much respected Bishop Duan Yinming Matthias of Wanxian died at the age of 92. He was the last Vatican appointed bishop in Mainland China. Bishop Duan was born in 1908 and ordained in 1937. He was appointed bishop of Wanxian by Pius XII in 1949, and consecrated the same year. He died on January 10, 2001.

April 12, 2001: Vatican-approved Bishop Luo Beizhen Peter of Chongqing, Sichuan Province, passed away on March 26 at the age of 89. Bishop Luo was born in 1911 and ordained in 1940. He was consecrated Bishop of Chongqing by Bishop Duan Yinming on May 14, 1993.

June 1, 2001: Bishop Lin Bingliang, James of Guangzhou, Guangdong, Province, died on May 25, 2001. He was born on June 6, 1913, ordained in 1941 and consecrated bishop on May 6, 1990. Bishop Lin's funeral took place in the beautiful Gothic "Stone Church" Sacred Heart Cathedral in Guangzhou on June 5, 2001.

December 12, 2001: Franciscan underground Bishop Victor Liu Hede, 90, of Hankou, Wuhan City, Hubei Province, died on December 10 in hospital. Born in 1910, Bishop Liu joined the Franciscans in 1929. He was ordained a priest in 1936 and appointed administrator of the Hankou Diocese in 1950. He was arrested and imprisoned in 1955 and sent for reform-through-labor during the Cultural Revolution. He was released in the late 1970s and clandestinely ordained a bishop in 1984. The Chinese government recognized him as a priest but not as a bishop.

December 24, 2001: On Christmas Eve, the unofficial bishop of Beijing, Bishop Matthew Pei Shangde died at the age of 83. Bishop Pei had been under house arrest since April 2001.The police have ordered a low profile service for his funeral to be attended by villagers only and no outsiders. Born in 1918 to Catholic parents, he entered the seminary of the Congregation of the Lord's Disciples, a congregation founded by Cardinal Celso Costantini at the age of 13. He was ordained a priest on May 30, 1948. In 1950, he was forced to work at the Beijing Zhiyaochang Medicine Factory. During the Cultural Revolution, he suffered many hardships and trials. He was released in 1980 after ten years of re-education through labor. In 1989, he was secretly ordained Bishop of Beijing.


January 4, 2001: A priest, 5 nuns, 6 seminarians, and a number of lay people were detained by the county security office of Fujian province for worshipping at an authorized place of worship. Most of the group was released. However, two nuns were forced to sign prepared documents denouncing their faith.

April 24, 2001: There were a number of arrests in Beijing, Hebei, Fujian, Jiangxi and Inner Mongolia of bishops, priests and lay people in the unofficial Catholic Church. Among them three bishops:

Bishop Shi Enxiang (79) arrested in April in Beijing

Bishop Mattia Pei (82) in Beijing and a large number of priests.

Bishop Li Hongye of Luoyang

July 16, 2001: Fifteen priests from the underground segment of the Catholic Church in China were arrested in Yujiang diocese in Jiangxi Province on July 10, 2001.

November 2001: Bishop Li Jingfeng, Luke Bishop of Fengxiang, Shaanxi Province, and his assistant, Coadjutor Bishop Zhang Wannian, Peter have disappeared. Twelve priests have also been confined for indoctrination courses. The monastery and two convents have been closed. The seminarians, monks and nuns have been sent home. All are part of the underground Catholic Community. Fengxiang is the only Catholic Diocese in China, which has only an underground community and no official church.

December 11, 2001: The government has seriously restricted the activities of Bishop Bartholomew Yu Chengti, 72, of Hangzhou Diocese, Shaanxi Province and three of his priests who now have been sent to remote parishes for refusing to join the Catholic Patriotic Association. The priests have been forbidden from contacting their bishop.

Other news

January 19, 2001: The main religious communities leaders of Hong Kong have came together to encourage growth of social commitment and promote peace and happiness in Hong Kong's youth in a New Year's letter. They have also begun to raise awareness and understanding of each other's religion.

January 20, 2001: The leaders of the six main religions in Hong Kong have pledged to work in unison to promote cultural values and ‘the virtues of benevolence and love' in five directions through education of youth, schools, commitment to the young and old, to build a peaceful community. It also asks the government to put the needs of all Hong Kong people above political ambitions.

February 1, 2001: The controversial Episcopal ordination held a year ago in Beijing has caused concern as to whether or not, ‘boycotting' seminarians were dismissed unjustly for not attending the ceremony. Many criticisms have been voiced making the government keep close watch over the whole situation.

February 9, 2001: Several Hong Kong Christian groups have urged the Chinese and Hong Kong governments to be tolerant of the Falun Gong. They have been asked that ‘all citizens should be treated equally regardless of their faith.'

February 20, 2001: Chinese Communists officials visited five of Hong Kong's main religious entities. It is not known why the Catholic Church was left out. The purpose of the visit was to arrange for mainland Buddhists monks to study in Hong Kong. During the discussions with the delegates, Falun Gong was described as an evil cult. Despite this statement, tolerance was again urged by the Hong Kong six main religions.

March 2, 2001: There is concern from scholars that the Chinese ratification of a United Nations economic and human rights covenant will not bring significant changes to mainland China's human rights situation. The scholars see the ratification as being aimed at the international community more than to raise mainlanders' awareness of their rights. In defense of the Chinese government's action, it was stated that the Constitution stipulates a wide range of economic, social and cultural rights, and it has abided by the general principles of the international norms on human rights.

March 13, 2001: Jesuit Father Guntheinz has brought together Catholics, Protestants and experienced people in Taipei to help tens of thousand of Hansenites in mainland China. With the efforts of these people, the hope is to improve their treatment, living conditions and education of society for the 320,000 people suffering from leprosy. The Chinese Leprosy Service (CLS) is pleased to have people of various backgrounds and professions come together to achieve these goals.

March 27, 2001: A Catholic relief team of nuns in habits visited and assisted the snowstorm stricken area of Mongolia, impressing everyone wherever they went. They supplied food and animal feed to the nomadic families. They also brought more of the love of God than everyone realized. All were left with a sense of purpose to spread God's word within the community.

March 30, 2001: Centenarian Father Francis Burkhardt received the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice medal from Monsignor Adolfo Tito Yilana, on behalf of Pope John Paul II for his continuing devotion to relieve the suffering of Taiwanese people. He has spent nearly 50 years in service to improving their lives, living conditions and spiritual needs.

April 3, 2001: A convent in Harbin, northeast China, has been dissolved, and the Sisters have left. It is alleged that the situation is the result of conflicts over living conditions, treatment of the nuns and suspicion over the election of a convent superior.

April 5, 2001: Bishop Meng Ziwen, Joseph from Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region celebrated his 99th birthday with Catholics and family. Though only recognized in the State Church as a priest, Bishop Ziwen continues to work with all local Catholics. Despite his age, he is in fine health and travels to 3 dioceses to celebrate mass.

April 10, 2001: The tradition of baptizing newborn children in northeast China continues despite difficulties due to weather, ethnic traditions, faith and the Cultural Revolution.

April 16, 2001: The US-based Cardinal Kung Foundation (CKF), a private institution that advocates the interest of the ‘underground' Church, has begun gathering personal letters from people who knew the Cardinal who died in 2000 at the age of 98 in view of his possible canonization. He is remembered by most as being a ‘prominent witness who suffered for his faith his entire life.'

April 23, 2001: Father Yue Fusheng of northeastern China had his ear ‘chopped' off by two assailants. Though the motives are unknown, people pray for the priest and hope that the people responsible will be caught.

May 4, 2001: With a growing concern that many people in Taiwan are committing suicide due to life's pressures, Taiwan's bishops have issued a pastoral letter outlining practical preventive steps and for the building of a culture of life.

May 7, 2001: Cardinal Yu-pin of Taiwan was remembered for his services as a patron of Catholic education throughout his pastoral life. Month long celebrations culminated in a mass devoted to his 100th birth anniversary.

May 25, 2001: Bishop Jin Peixian of Liaoning in northeast China celebrated fifty years as a priest with the local Chinese of the area. Bishop Jin has devoted his life assisting seminarians in their education.

May 25, 2001: Catholic missionaries in Mongolia are helping to change local attitudes towards people with learning difficulties. In seminars and demonstrations, the missionaries have shown that love, dedication and training can provide effective education, establish knowledge and change attitudes towards these people especially children.

May 30, 2001: A priest from northeast China was arrested for cutting off the ear of a fellow priest. Two assailants were arrested later. Local Catholics were in disbelief of the priest's involvement, which has affected the morale among priest and seminarians in the area.

June 20, 2001: 1,000 local Catholics and a few overseas visitors watched the inauguration of a Catholic Church as the first religious venue in the resettlement area of the Three Gorges Dam project in China. The church was funded and furnished with help from overseas Catholics. There are plans to have 21 religious venues in the resettlement area.

July 14, 2001: The Catholic Church joined in celebrations as China won its bid for the 2008 Olympics. There is some optimism that the world will become aware of China's culture and hope for more international openness. However, there are still some reservations that China's human rights will not improve beneficially.

July 24, 2001: New information about the early history of Christianity in China has created public attention. A recent translation of ‘The Jesus Sutras', claims that Christianity has been in China for over 1,000 years. The most famous writings about the history have been accredited to Martin Palmer who has done extensive research about the religion dating back the third century.

July 25, 2001: An appeal to help improve Sino-Vatican relations made by the Vatican Secretary of State to the US president is not likely to bring any improvement in bilateral relations.

July 30, 2001: Concern about the Church's slow growth and disagreements among priests in three dioceses have forced the merger into one diocese in Anhui province in central China. Catholics have been banned from entering ‘underground' churches. The move is calculated to "stabilize" the ‘open' Catholic Church in the area.

July 31, 2001: ‘Faith' a widely distributed Catholic publication in China celebrated its 10th anniversary by taking a closer look at its publication for ways of improvement. With the help from media persons on the skills and principals of all aspects of news reporting, ‘Faith' hopes to improve the balance of priestly news, spirituality information and general layout.

August 6, 2001: Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu, 45, of Xianxian, Henan Province, Central China, arrested in January 2000 and not affiliated with the ‘open' church has been released from house arrest because of poor health.

August 10, 2001: In hope of continuing to build young Catholic families in Shandong province in eastern China, the parishes have begun a matchmaking service. The service is meant to enable young Catholics to meet each other, learn about marriage and continue to grow in the faith.

August 13, 2001: Public security officials have leveled the grave of Vatican-appointed Bishop Joseph Fan Xueyan of Baoding to discourage Catholics from paying their respect. Bishop Fan was a prominent leader of the ‘underground' church and highly regarded for his refusal to compromise his allegiance to the Pope. Despite the roadblocks, Catholics still come to the gravesite.

August 18, 2001: With the help of overseas funding, Catholics from Guilin, southwest China, are looking forward to worshipping in a new and bigger church. The previous church collapsed in 1996. There is a renewed hope that with the bigger church, Catholics in the Guilin diocese, now merged into Guangxi diocese, will be more involved and more young people will become interested.

August 27, 2001: The Caritas Francis Hsu College in Hong Kong has been formally recognized as a post-secondary college. The college offers a wide selection of courses to capable young people, who are unable to enter university.

August 28, 2001: China hopes to meet the AIDS crisis through Education. More than 70% of China's AIDS cases come from the use of intravenous drugs, prostitution and blood transfusions. Doctors need to be more open about such topics with their patients.

August 31, 2001: Priests returning from overseas studies have been advised to interact more with the locally trained priests in order to help them overcome culture shock and feel part of the community. During a four-day meeting, the concerns for these priests were discussed as well as the lack of resources in China for the seminary. Though fewer priests are being sent for long periods abroad to study, the group felt that mainland priests and nuns should be given a chance to experience the outside world.

September 1, 2001: More than 500 Catholics celebrated the opening of a religious friendship exchange center located in a World Heritage designated site 500 kilometers from Beijing. The center, run by the local Catholic Church offers assistance for the tourists.

September 3, 2001: Forty Catholic youths from Macau were inspired by a recently Church-backed overseas exchange program that took the students to Italy, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia to ‘nurture young people's idealism, which is a source of strength to the Church.' This type of exposure should help the participating youths to become better informed and intelligent Church leaders.

September 4, 2001: In April 2001, the Church in Guizhou regained the property of the site of the former Church-run Sacred Heart School in Anlong county, Guizhou province. With governmental permission the Guizhou diocese with Father Li Limin as principal is managing the public school on the property. The teaching of religion, however, is not permitted.

September 7, 2001: Catholics of Shenzhen and Hong Kong are experiencing fellowship and mutual understanding by sharing the Bible, singing and worshipping together in one of the first chapels in a shopping center in Shenzhen near Hong Kong.

September 12, 2001: Participants of a symposium held in Taiwan on ‘History of the Catholic Chinese Church and of Catechesis in China' suggested that objective studies on early missionaries in China could give a more balanced assessment of their cultural and religious contributions. Scholars were asked to conduct scientific research that is open to both the laudable as well as the less honorable aspects of missionary life in China throughout five centuries.

September 15, 2001: According to Hong Kong parish advisor Mak Hon-kai, senior religious affairs officials have declared that the controversy between China and the Vatican over the canonization of 120 Chinese Martyrs is all in the past and China is ready to open talks with the Vatican. Mak and 23 other religious delegates were invited to visit Beijing and Shanghai and hold discussions about their own religions.

September 17, 2001: A book called ‘Shengdian Xinmao' meaning new faces of holy places being published at the end of the year will enable Catholics across China to appreciate church architecture. This is the first photo collection of Catholic churches in China. It is meant to serve to unite Catholics and help others understand the Catholic Church in China.

September 29, 2001: In response to Pope John Paul's call to honor ‘new martyrs' church people in Taiwan, mainland China and other religious groups have compiled 2,000 Catholic names and sent these to the Vatican. The compilation includes both religious and lay people who were killed in persecutions on Mainland China in the second half of the last century as well as Chinese and foreign clergy.

October 7, 2001: The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Hong Kong, was crowded for the solemn concelebration of a Mass to commemorate the first anniversary of the canonization of the 120 China martyrs. The saints were martyred between 1648 and 1930.

October 11, 2001: Although the bishops of Mainland China received the working document for the Synod of Bishops in Rome, bishops from the Mainland were not permitted to attend the Synod, as was also the case with the Synod of Asia in 1998.

October 12, 2001: October 12 marked the official inauguration of the Macau Ricci Institute for studies on the impact of intercultural dialogue between China and the West. The institute is named after the famous Italian missionary, Matteo Ricci and operated by the Jesuits.

October 14-17, 2001: An international conference titled "Encounters and Dialogues, An International Symposium on Cross-Cultural Exchanges between China and the West in the Late Ming and Early Qing Dynasties was held at the Beijing Institute of Technology to mark the 400th anniversary of Jesuit Father Matteo Ricci's arrival in Beijing. The conference, attended by many Chinese scholars, stressed the importance of situating the China Mission and its varied complex aspects within the historical rather than the ideological context. The conference was jointly arranged by the Institute of World Religions of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing and the Ricci Institute for Chinese-Western Cultural History of The University of San Francisco Center for the Pacific Rim.

October 16-19, 2001: China detained more than 23,000 suspects in a 20-day anti-crime campaign in the run-up to the APEC meeting in Shanghai October 15-21. Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang of Shanghai, and other Catholic clergy of the "underground" Church in Shanghai were warned not to "wander around" during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum there.

October 18, 2001: "Photographs of Early Twentieth Century China" by Father Leone Nani, P.I.M.E. went on exhibition at the Macau Museum of Art on October 18. The exhibit of 150 photographs will last until February 17, 2002. The photos have five themes: people, livelihood, scenery, missionary work, and Father Nani himself, who went to China at the age of 23 in 1904 and remained until 1914.

October 19, 2001: The South China Morning Post reported that although China enacted a law 10 years ago outlawing the sale of babies, the practice is still widespread in some rural areas. Girls are sold for as little as USD 250 and boys for about USD 1000. Birth certificates are openly supplied by local clinics. The price is often conditioned by the child's physical state.

October 24, 2001: At an international conference at the Gregorian University, Rome, commemorating the 400th anniversary of Matteo Ricci's arrival in Beijing, Pope John Paul II apologized for all "past and present" wrongs committed by members of the Catholic Church. "I regret that in many people these failings may have given the impression of a lack of respect and esteem for the Chinese people…For all this I ask the forgiveness and understanding of those who may have felt hurt by such actions on the part of Christians."

October 25,2001: A local government demolished a newly rebuilt Catholic church in eastern China for the third time in 18 months because Catholics there refuse to join a government recognized association. Catholics in Linjiayuan village of Lupu town, Zhejiang province rebuilt their church during the National Day holidays Oct. 1-7. However, the government again demolished it on October 25.

October 26, 2001: Chinese foreign Ministry Spokesman, Sun Yuxi, said at a press conference on October 25 that China is willing to improve relations with the Vatican, but two conditions must be observed: the Vatican must terminate "diplomatic relations" with Taiwan and admit that the government of the People's Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is an inseparable part of China's territory. And the Vatican must not interfere in China's internal affairs, including not interfering in China's internal affairs by conducting religious activities.

October 29, 2001: Taiwan Catholics and church leaders praised Pope John Paul II's humble gesture of apology to the Chinese people and said they are prepared for changes in Taiwan-Holy See relations.

November 4, 2001: The Hospitallier Order of St. John of God has been invited to open a facility for terminally ill cancer patients in Jilin Province. The invitation followed a meeting two years ago after Chinese health representatives visited the St. John of God center for terminally ill cancer patients in the Korean city of Kwangju. They were so impressed that they asked the religious to open a similar facility in China. The Brothers will not be able to engage in religious activities publicly, but they will be able to pray with the sick and their relatives is these explicitly request it.

November 9, 2001: The Museum of World Religions, the first of its kind all over the world, opened on November 9, 2001 in Taipei. President Chen Shui-bian and 12 local overseas dignitaries including Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-his and Archbishop Joseph Ti-Kang of Taipei took part in the opening ceremony. Buddhist Venerable Hsin-tao, abbot of the Wu Sheng Monastery on Ling Jiou Mountain in northeastern Taiwan is the founder of the museum. He sees this as only the first step toward promoting reconciliation among various religions and world peace.

November 9, 2001: In Hong Kong, suicide has been the number-one killer of young people 15-25. The Hong Kong government has offered to help suicide prevention groups halt the increase of suicides. Many suicides this year have occurred among middle income people in the 30-59 age. This has been attributed to the economic crisis.

November 27, 2001: China's foreign minister says that the Holy See must apologize for the canonization of the 120 China saints before, China will consider re-establishing Sino-Vatican relations. The canonization provoked harsh condemnation and outrage on the part of China. The Holy Father has already apologized to China for errors committed by missionaries; and there does not seem that any other apology is warranted.

December 1, 2001: Bishop Luke Li Jingfeng of Fengxiang and several priests of Shaanxi Province, not affiliated with the open church, have been arrested by the government, and taken away for re-education classes. The priests were sent back to their home town on November 27, and they are not permitted to return to their parishes. The government has declared that the seminary in the cathedral compound is illegal and ordered all seminarians to return home by November 20.

December 3, 2001: The Justice and Peace commission of the Hong Kong Diocese attempted to present a letter to the liaison office of the Central People's Government on World AIDS Day urging the Chinese government to care for its AIDS patients. The government office refused to accept the letter.

December 7, 2001: Hundreds of Catholics, government officials and donors attended the ceremony officiated by Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan inaugurating the opening of St. Joseph's Church in Wanxian diocese. This is part of the project to relocate churches being submerged by the Three Gorges Dam Project. Four more churches are needed to replace the ones which will be submerged. Two of these are scheduled for completion in 2005.

December 21, 2001: Msgr. James Patrick Green will succeed Msgr. Adolfo Tito Yllana as Charge d'Affaires of the Taipei-based Apostolic Nunciatura in China. Msgr.Yllana has been appointed as Archbishop and Apostolic Nuncio to Papua New Guinea.

December 22, 2001: St. Anthony's, Shenzhen's new and only Catholic Church, opened on December 18 to the joy of some 1000 Catholics in the city. The Mass was concelebrated by Bishops John Huo Cheng of Fenyang, Shanxi Province, Paul Jiang Taoran of Shijiazhuang, Hebei Province as wellas 40 priests from different parts of the country including Hong Kong. An official from the Shenzhen United Front Work Department of the Communist party said that it is important to guide religious followers to adapt to socialism, to love the country, and the communist leadership, and to serve the best interests of the whole nation.

December 25, 2001: The Chinese celebrated Christmas in a variety of ways. Some saw it as a time for shopping, going out with family and friends, exchanging Christmas cards and presents, and sending E-mail cards. Hotels inflated their prices to cater to the new rich. "Chinese celebrating Christmas doesn't mean that they know all about the Western Christmas spirit. It's only that we are better off now, and need an excuse to gather around with friends and enjoy ourselves," said Zhao Xiaqiu, a professor at Renmin University in Beijing. Many Christians, however, queued up for hours, in below freezing temperature, and waited patiently for hours to get into the midnight Mass to celebrate the birth of Christ.

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