Survivor of Chinese prisons celebrates priestly ordination
For his faith, Father Matthew Chu Li-teh was imprisoned for 27 years
Margarita Chen, Taipei
January 18, 2019
A Jesuit priest imprisoned for more than two decades in China has celebrated the 25th anniversary of his ordination.
Father Matthew Chu Li-teh, SJ, 85, celebrated his silver jubilee with a Mass at Kuting Sacred Heart Church, Taipei, on Jan. 9.
Joining him at the Mass was his priest brother Father Chu Yu-teh, 87, of the underground church in Shanghai.
Before the celebration it was unsure if Father Yu-teh would be allowed to leave China. In 2005, public security at Shanghai airport stopped him from boarding a flight to join some of his brothers overseas on a pilgrimage.
This time he was more successful and he concelebrated the Mass along with Father Matthew and their cousin Father Simon Chu, SJ. Also concelebrating the Mass was Hong Kong Emeritus Bishop Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Taipei Emeritus Archbishop Ti-Kang, parish priest Father Joseph Bui Ngoc Thang, SJ, and nine other Jesuits.
During his homily, Father Simon said that Father Matthew travelled to Rome to meet Pope Francis in 2015 for the 60th anniversary of the persecution of the Catholic Church in Shanghai.
During the audience with the pope, Father Matthew spoke of the church’s suffering in mainland China.
Pope Francis had long known of the suffering of his older brother, Father Chu Shu-teh, who also arrested during the persecution of the church in 1955. Later, Father Shu-teh was released but was rearrested in early 1981 for his faith and later died in prison in 1983.
Pope Francis told Father Matthew when he was archbishop of Buenos Aires that he had obtained Father Shu-teh’s remains, which are still preserved at the bishop’s residence in the Argentine capital.
Three brothers imprisoned for their faith
Father Matthew came from a well-known Catholic family in Shanghai. His two maternal uncles were diocesan priests, while his two paternal uncles, eldest brother Shu-teh, third brother Li-teh (Michael) and fifth brother Yu-teh were all Jesuits.
Father Matthew was the sixth of eight children and he studied at schools run by Jesuits. Later he joined the Jesuit-run Xujiahui minor seminary.
He and his brother Chu Yu-teh were both seminarians when communist authorities stepped up their persecution against the Shanghai church in the mid-1950s. Both were arrested and imprisoned in labor camps for 27 years.
Then-seminarian Matthew was released in 1979 but was arrested again in 1981 and sent to a labor camp. He was released in 1985.
In 1988, he accompanied Cardinal Ignatius Kung Pin-mei to visit the U.S. and after that he spent six years to complete his priesthood formation at the faculty of theology of Fu Jen Catholic University in Hsinchuang near Taipei.
At the age of 60, he was ordained a priest at the Holy Family Church in Taipei and has since served the Taiwan church. During his time in Taiwan, he assisted the late Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-Hsi of Kaohsiung to gather a list of church martyrs who had been killed during China’s civil war and during the 1950s at the hands of the communists.
Some 300 Catholics also attended Father Matthew’s silver jubilee Mass including Matthew S.M. Lee, ambassador of Taiwan to the Holy See, former ambassador Tou Chou-Seng, Taiwan Vice-President Chen Chien-Jen and Chu Jian-teh, 90, another of Father Matthew’s brothers who now lives in the U.S.