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Chinese Catholics who changed China and the world

After Mao Zedong (1893-1976) declared the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, missionaries and Chinese clergy flooded out of mainland China to escape the coming anti-Christian persecutions. There were some clergy, however, who remained with their beleaguered flock, such as the American Jesuit, Father Charles McCarthy, SJ, (1911-1991) and the Chinese Jesuit, Father Zhu Shude, SJ (1913-1983). In 1949, Father Zhu was in Hong Kong receiving his fellow Jesuits fleeing the mainland, and he decided that the Christians in Shanghai needed him to remain with them through the storm. Despite the entreaties from his fellow priests to stay in the safety of Hong Kong, Zhu boarded a plane for Shanghai. In a poignant letter left for his brother, he wrote:

Every day many people are escaping from China to Hong Kong. Yet I cannot find anyone, apart from myself, who is preparing to leave Hong Kong for China. Everyone laughs at me for being a fool. In the eyes of the world I am indeed the biggest fool ever born! When a merchant cannot make a profit in one place, he will move somewhere else. Yet I am a priest, and the life of a priest is to serve his flock. As long as there are Christians left in Shanghai, I must return there. Because I am a priest. I represent Christ and his Church. Wherever I am, the Church is. I am willing to stay in Shanghai, to let the communist party know that the Catholic faith is still alive.i

Zhu was arrested in 1953, and finally died in a labor camp in 1983 after thirty years of hardship and torment. He remains a heroic example among Chinese Catholics today of what it means to love Christ, the Church, and China enough to bear fear and imprisonment in order to stay there when needed.

In October 2017, Christianity Today posted a fine tribute to Chinese Protestants entitled “10 Chinese Christians the Western Church Should Know” with the subtitle “Meet the men and women who have rooted the gospel message within the Chinese soul.”ii I would like to offer here a few examples of Chinese Catholics who were also an unwavering witness to the resilience and perseverance of Christians who have filled China’s pews for nearly five centuries. It is a good time to remember some of these Chinese Catholics whose names are seldom discussed in print, but who have transformed the landscape of Chinese Christianity and Chinese society.

Read more at Catholic World Report. 

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