ASIA/CHINA - A precious (and useful) "database" on the historical evolution of Catholic dioceses in China

Thursday, 15 June 2023 local churches   mission   evangelization   bishops  

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - A complete overview of the history of Catholic dioceses in China, which traces the history and the historical stages passed through by each ecclesiastical circumscription from its foundation to 1946, is contained in the book "History of the Evolution of Catholic Dioceses in China" by Professor Liu Zhiqing, published under the patronage of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. The volume, the first edition of which dates from 2017, is now being published in a new, updated version enriched with new contributions and insights. The work, of great importance from an academic point of view, is of interest not only for scholars interested in historical events, but also touches on issues relevant to the present and future of Chinese Catholicism. The division of the Catholic dioceses in China is also one of the key issues at the heart of current and future negotiations between the Holy See and the Chinese government. With its historical perspective, Professor Liu Zhiqing's study therefore offers a valuable perspective on the current situation in the Chinese dioceses. The volume is also a treasure trove of concrete proposals for the future organization of the Catholic ecclesiastical district network in China.
The volume covers a period from 1576 (the year the first Chinese diocese of Macau was established) to 1946 (the year the Chinese Catholic hierarchy was established). Also attached to the book is a very useful "History of the Development of the Catholic Diocese of China". The work is the result of years of research and in-depth study, also drawing on sources and documents kept in the archives of religious orders, and on the direct testimonies of key figures in the Chinese Catholic Church, such as Bishop Tomaso Zhang Huaixin, who headed the diocese of Weihui (now Anyang), in Henan Province.
The diocese - as we read in the short introduction to the book - is the "basic unit" of the Catholic church structure. The establishment of Catholic missions in China "began during the Yuan dynasty and was interrupted with the fall of that dynasty. In the 1670s Macau became an independent diocese". Macao itself, on January 1, 1976, by virtue of Pope Paul VI's bull Ad nominum, became a diocese immediately subject to the Holy See. "On the eve of the founding of the new China, in 1949," says the introduction, "there were 144 dioceses in China." The book systematically reconstructs the historical development of China's Catholic dioceses, provides basic information about the bishops who alternated at the head of the individual ecclesiastical circumscriptions, traces the history of the founding and development of each diocese, and documents the boundaries of districts, counties, and cities, which are subject to the respective jurisdiction. The book also contains a comprehensive and detailed account of the division of Chinese dioceses up to 1949.
Professor Liu graduated from Henan University's Faculty of History in 1988. He is now a lecturer at the Institute of History and Social Development and Executive Director of the Institute for the Study of Religion and Culture at Anyang Normal University (Henan Province).
Liu Zhiqing is also a visiting scholar at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan. As part of his collaboration with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the professor has also participated in annual visits and the exchange of papers and research with the Center for Catholic Studies.
Liu Zhiqing has been studying and researching Chinese Catholicism for more than 30 years. For more than 20 years he had a deep friendship and mutual esteem with Bishop Tomaso Zhang Huaixin (May 23, 1925 - May 8, 2016). His essays on Chinese Catholicism include such texts as 'A Study of the History and Current Situation of Catholic Dioceses in China' and articles such as 'Reflections on the Formation of Priests in the Anyang Diocese'; 'Four Missions of Canadian Missionaries in Anyang', 'Basic Analysis of the Religious Impact on Chinese Society'; 'Chronicles of Catholicism in Henan'.
His most recent research, recently published, is titled "A Study of the Missionary History of Religious Congregations in China" and provides a comprehensive picture of the missionary work carried out in China by as many as 27 religious congregations, missionary institutes and societies of apostolic life. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 15/6/2023)