ASIA/CHINA - 100th anniversary of the founding of the Catholic parish in Lanniquing: Yi ethnic group pays tribute to the French missionary Paul Vial

Wednesday, 17 April 2024 local churches   mission   missionary institutes   ethnic minorities  

Kunming (Agenzia Fides) - More than 500 Catholics, most of whom belong to ethnic minorities in Yunnan province (southwest China), celebrated the 100th anniversary of the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lanniqing, whose members are mainly from the Yi ethnic group. Catholics from various ethnic groups (Han, Miao, Jingpo, Yi and Tibetans) took part in the celebrations held last week. The parish's centenary also provided the opportunity to publicly express the gratitude of the entire community to the French missionary of the “Missions Etrangères de Paris” (MEP), Father Paul Vial (1855-1917).
The southwestern Chinese provinces where the missionaries of the Missions Etrangères de Paris worked are characterized by a strong presence of ethnic minorities who have their own languages and forms of writing. Father Vial, known in China by his Chinese name Deng Mingde, was one of the first MEP missionaries to serve in Yunnan and dedicated his life to preaching the Gospel in the region populated by the Yi ethnic group. After his ordination in 1879, he traveled to Yunnan and was the first foreigner to carry out studies on the Yi ethnic group. For these scientific contributions he also received academic titles in France.
The first small church in Lanniquing was built in 1893 on the initiative of Father Vial, but the church soon became inadequate to meet the pastoral needs of the local community. Finally, the church was rebuilt in 1924 at the initiative of Father Bi Jingxing, the first priest of the Atsi (a Yi subgroup). Today, one hundred years later, the Atsi community has eight local priests. Over the past 100 years, the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lanniqing has been tested by several strokes of fate. The local Catholic community has always entrusted itself to the grace of God and the intercession of Mary Immaculate, asking that the Church continue to bear witness to the name of Christ among the local people, also through works of charity. The community has actively participated in charitable initiatives and has also raised funds to support projects for populations affected by natural disasters. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 17/4/2024)