ASIA/CHINA - New Chinese studies on the valuable role of missionary congregations and institutes in the apostolic work of the Church in China in the first half of the 20th century

Thursday, 22 June 2023 mission   evangelization   history   local churches   missionary institutes  

Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - The first half of the 20th century represented a crucial historical phase for contemporary China, and also for the apostolic work of the Catholic Church in "Middle-earth". Those decades were marked by the end of the Empire, the beginning of the Chinese Republic. And then the birth of the Chinese Communist Party, the civil war between nationalists and communists, the Japanese occupation, until the victory of the communists led by Mao Zedong and the proclamation of the People's Republic of China (1949). In the same period, the Chinese Catholic hierarchy was established, with the establishment and development of dioceses throughout the country. At present, new studies carried out by Chinese academics are reconstructing in detail the work carried out in China in those years by 27 orders and religious institutes for male missionaries, and the contribution they made to the proclamation of the Gospel in China and to the growth of the local Church. The reconstruction and analysis of the impact of religious orders on the progress of the Church in China in the first half of the twentieth century fill the 14 chapters of the volume entitled "A study on the missionary history of religious congregations in China", the latest research carried out by Professor Liu Zhiqing and Professor Shang Haili. The work has just been published by the Culture and Religion publishing house. In its 14 chapters, introductory notes and appendices, the new book focuses above all on the crucial role played by missionary congregations and institutes in the development of ordinary pastoral care in Chinese parishes and dioceses, also addressing their contribution to the work of formation carried out in seminaries and the relations - not always easy - between the different religious orders. The volume's appendix provides valuable summary tables of statistics on the structure and growth of Chinese Catholic dioceses and communities in the years 1919, 1940, 1941, and the early 1950s. The male orders taken into consideration in volume number, including - among others - Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans, the Paris Foreign Missions Society (MEP), Lazarists, the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME), Scheut missionaries (Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary CICM), Verbites, Maryknoll (Society for the Foreign Missions of the United States of America).
In the first half of the 20th century, the apostolic impetus of missionary congregations and institutes was a primary decisive factor in the work of parishes and dioceses, the administration of the sacraments and the ordinary pastoral practices that sustained the daily journey of faith of the baptized Chinese Catholics.
The volume confirms how important the studies carried out with the historical method on the basis of documents (including those kept in the archives of religious orders) are in order to understand the history of the Catholic missions in China in all its richness, while removing it from stereotypes and partial readings fueled by prejudices. Professor Liu Zhiqing, a co-author of the volume, is Director of 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, and has been working for more than 30 years in studies and research on Chinese Catholicism, which have given rise to the publication of essays and volumes of high academic value. The new publication is a complementary study to the "History of the evolution of Catholic dioceses in China" (see Fides, 15/6/2023), published by Professor Liu under the patronage of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in 2017. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 22/6/2023)