Beijing (Agenzia Fides) - There is not a Chinese Catholic or Chinese academic interested in the life of the Church who does not have or has never consulted the volume "Guide to the Catholic Church in China" by Father Jean Charbonnier, missionary of the Society of Foreign Missions in Paris (Missions étrangères de Paris, MEP). Father Charbonnier was for many Chinese Catholics "the benefactor" of the Church in China. The missionary passed away this morning, June 27, at the age of 91, at the MEP retirement home in France. He was an excellent sinologist and the author of numerous authoritative publications both in the missionary and academic worlds, and was considered one of the most competent experts on Chinese Christianity. His works are also the fruit of his experiences as a tireless traveler in the provinces of mainland China, Hong Kong and Singapore. His generous personal friendship with a multitude of Chinese Catholics, bishops, priests, religious and laity, was well known. With authentic ecclesial passion, the missionary Charbonnier always worked for the unity of the Church in China, under the sign of communion with the Pope and the universal Church. His "Guide" gathered all useful information about the Church in China, starting with the dioceses and the addresses of each parish. The volume was periodically updated (there are 1986, 1989, 1993, 1997, 2000, 2004, 2008 editions).
In the preface to the 2014 edition, Father Charbonnier wrote: "Following the Pope’s Letter to all Catholics in China dated 27 May 2007, we hope that former divisions between official and unofficial Catholics will slowly disappear. We drop therefore our earlier distinctions in the name lists of bishops". Born on January 3, 1932 in Paris, he was ordained a priest on December 21, 1957 after completing his theological studies and went on a mission to Malacca on December 1, 1959. He spent two years of study and research in Taipei (Taiwan). During the General Assembly of the Society in 1980, he was put in charge of the "China Service". In 1981, he founded the Zhonglian Center in Singapore: China Catholic Communication Service.
Since 1975, Father Charbonnier had visited mainland China and Hong Kong more than 40 times. He also produced excellent studies on the history of Chinese historiography, Confucianism, Lu Xun (famous Chinese writer) and issues and problems of contemporary China. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 27/6/2023)