China, Christianity in
CHINA, CHRISTIANITY IN
Since 1949, the communist government of the People's Republic of China has controlled mainland China from its capital in Beijing (Peking). The non-communist Republic of China with its capital in Taipei has governed Taiwan and other offshore islands. On June 30, 1997, and December 20, 1999, respectively, Hong Kong and Macau were returned to mainland Chinese control. This entry covers the history and present status of Christianity in mainland China. For discussion of the Church in Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, see those separate entries.
The Christian presence in China has a long but broken history, shrouded by the mystery of time. Legend has it that St. Thomas traveled to China from India, converted some Chinese, and then returned to Meliapur on the southeast coast of India, where he died. But no evidence has been found to substantiate this claim.
The "Luminous Religion." The arrival of an Assyrian (Nestorian) monk Alopen (Aluoben) in the Chinese capital of Chang'an (modern Xi'an) in 635, during the Tang dynasty, is the first known Christian presence in China. This event is recorded on the so-called Assyrian (Nestorian) Christian monument of Xi'anfu, discovered in 1625. The marble stele, 9 feet high by 3 feet 4 inches wide, was erected in 781 to celebrate "the propagation of the Luminous Religion in the Middle Kingdom." Under this acculturated name the monument in fact retraces the development of the assyrian church of the
east in China. It also presents the principal points of a unique blend of Christian doctrines with Confucian and Buddhist precepts, and records the names and titles of 70 saints and monks of the Assyrian Church in China.
Generally enjoying the favor of the Tang emperors, the "Luminous Religion" prospered. Soon churches and monasteries existed in all the provinces. Records or architectural remains of at least 15 of these monasteries survive. Modern researchers have ascertained the past existence of Assyrian Christian communities in at least 22 cities and have unearthed medals and crosses as well as sarcophagi and tombs with Christian inscriptions in Syriac. Most intriguing of all is the "Da Qin," an ancient pagoda dedicated to the "Luminous Religion" in Lou Guan Tai (dated 638), with the oldest depiction of the Nativity scene in China. By the turn of the ninth century, China had its own metropolitan and a number of bishops. The xenophobic imperial decree of 845, which ordered the destruction of all "foreign" religions, dealt a grievous blow to both Buddhism and the "Luminous Religion" alike.
Assyrian Christianity also prospered in Central Asia among the Uighurs, the Naimans and the Onguts, and gradually spread among the Keraits and the Mongols. In 1271, the advent of the Mongol Yuan dynasty in China marked the beginning of a strong comeback for the "Luminous Religion." The Italian traveler Marco Polo found adherents in northern, central, and southern China. The most compelling sign of the vitality of the Assyrian Church in China during the Mongol period is perhaps the
story of Rabban Sauma and Mar Mark, two Chinese-born monks of Turkish descent, who in 1278 left the Chinese capital Khanbaliq (present-day Beijing) on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. During the journey, Mar Mark was elected Patriarch of Baghdad. He took the name of Yaballaha III and ruled over the entire Assyrian Church of the East. Rabban Sauma was, in 1287, sent on behalf of Khubilai Khan and Ilkhan Arghun on a diplomatic mission to Rome and the major capitals of Europe. Yet, as under the Tang dynasty, Assyrian Christianity in thirteenth-century China lacked a strong Han Chinese base and was most active among foreigners and minority residents. It is not surprising therefore that with the demise of the Yuan dynasty in 1368, Assyrian Christianity lost the imperial protection and patronage it had enjoyed for some one hundred years, and again disappeared from the Chinese public scene.
Franciscan Mission. Between 1245 and 1254 Pope Innocent IV dispatched several missions that had meager results to the court of the Great Khan in Karakorum. The Franciscans Giovanni dal Piano del Carpini and Willem van Rubroek and the Dominican André de Longjumeau led the major missions. Despite the return of the Italian travelers Maffeo and Nicolò Polo from the East with a letter from Khubilai asking for 100 Catholic missionaries in 1269, a papal interregnum and the difficulty of a long and arduous journey prevented contacts for several years. The Franciscan john of montecorvino became the first Catholic missionary to set foot on Chinese soil. He arrived in Khanbaliq in 1294 shortly after the death of Khubilai but was befriended by the new Khan, Timur. Soon after his arrival he built in the capital the first Catholic Church in China. As papal envoy to the Great Khan, friar Giovanni hoped primarily to convert the emperor and the cosmopolitan non-Chinese court. He was successful in converting Prince George of the Onguts, son-in-law of the emperor, and several Alan chiefs from Nestorianism to Catholicism. Emulating their leaders, many Ongut and Alan tribesmen followed suit. By 1305, friar Giovanni had administered some 6,000 baptisms, erected three churches, and trained a group of boys in the Latin chant and liturgy. He learned the Mongolian language and translated the New Testament, the liturgy of the Mass and the Psalter into that language.
In 1307, upon learning of Giovanni da Montecorvino's achievement, Pope Clement V appointed him archbishop of Kanbaliq and dispatched six Franciscan bishops to help him. Only three arrived at their final destination. The leader of the group was Andrea da Perugia whom Giovanni appointed bishop of Zaitun (modern Quanzhou), a busy city on the coast of southern China. Over the years, the friars benefitted from the protection of the rulers and the largesse of rich foreign benefactors. They built churches in several localities including the prosperous cities of Hangzhou and Yangzhou. Chinese converts were few compared to those belonging to the affluent foreign community.
Heavy casualties caused by the perils and privations of the voyage from Europe to the Far East kept Franciscan reinforcement to a trickle. In 1328, three years after his arrival in Khanbaliq, odoric da Pordenone made the long trip back to recruit missionaries for China. He provided a detailed account of the life of Giovanni da Montecorvino and his companions in the capital and other cities of China. The archbishop died around 1328 and no successor reached China to replace him. The papal envoy, Giovanni de Marignolli, entered the Chinese capital in 1342 with handsome gifts and a retinue of 32 people but stayed only three years. On his return, he urged Pope Innocent VI to send more Franciscans to China. However, due to the plagues that had begun to decimate the European population, missionaries were not available.
Meanwhile hostility toward the foreign Mongol Yuan dynasty and those associated with it rose and turned to violence. When the Franciscan bishop of Zaitun was slain in 1362, he was one of the last Catholic missionaries on Chinese soil. At the time of the establishment of the Chinese Ming Dynasty in 1368, Catholics in China may have numbered as many as 30,000, although the majority were probably not Han Chinese. The Franciscan Catholic mission, like its Assyrian (Nestorian) counterpart, was for the most part a religion of foreigners. Both lacked the native leadership and the Chinese following necessary for their survival in this new environment and disappeared almost without a trace. Some Chinese Catholics, however, persevered and handed down their faith in an unbroken tradition until missionaries discovered them at the turn of the twentieth century.
Although the Holy See continued for some time to name titulars to the See of Khanbaliq, it lost all contacts with its Chinese mission. No missionary expeditions seem to have reached China again until the 16th century when Pope Gregory XIII, in 1576, raised the Portuguese concession-port of Macau into a diocese with jurisdiction over the whole of China and Japan.
Jesuit Mission. In the early 16th century, Portuguese navigators reopened the sea route to China. St. Francis xavier, one of the members of the newly founded Society of Jesus, soon became interested in the Far East. During his stay in Japan (1549–51), he discovered
the importance of China, and he decided to enter the empire. His plan of accompanying a Portuguese embassy to Beijing failed. He died on Dec. 3, 1552, on the island of Shangchuan (Sancian), just a few miles from the coast of Guangdong (Kwangtung) province. His death, however, brought the importance of China to the attention of the West. During the 30 years that followed, Jesuits, Franciscans, Augustinians, and Dominicans tried in vain to gain a foothold in China. The empire's doors were closed to foreigners and traders could stay only at the port of Guangzhou (Canton) for short periods and under strict supervision.
Francis Xavier had come to understand the need to reach native people on their own terms. This meant becoming an integral part of the culture, although without compromise to Christian belief. Alessandro valignano, the Jesuit Visitor to the East, turned the vision into an effective method of penetrating China. He advocated a thorough preparation that included learning the language and adapting to the culture and customs of the Chinese. He summoned two Italian Jesuits from India, Michele Ruggieri, and Matteo ricci to Macau. In September 1583, they succeeded in taking up residence at Zhaozhou (Shiuhing). Dressing first as Buddhist monks and later as Confucian scholars when they discovered that the most respected class in China was the Confucian literati, the
two Jesuits displayed scientific instruments from the West, engaged in discussion with the literati and gained their respect. To strengthen their foothold, they sought to establish themselves in the capital of the empire, Beijing.
While Ruggieri returned to Europe in an unsuccessful effort to solicit an embassy from the pope, Ricci moved north and finally settled in Beijing in 1601, 18 years after entering China. With indefatigable zeal, he exercised a fruitful apostolate, both by the spoken word and by numerous writings. His method quickly won friends and admirers among prominent officials and scholars. He was influential in the conversion of Li Zhizao (Li Chihtsao), a director in the Board of the Public Works and Xu Guangqi (Hsü Kuang-ch'i, 1562-1633), a member of the Hanlin Academy who later rose to be a grand secretary. Together with Yang Tingyun (Yang T'ing-yün), another learned convert from Hangzhou, they later became known as the "Three Pillars of Christianity in China." Two years before his death in 1610, Ricci wrote that Beijing counted 2,000 Christians, among whom many were literati.
In 1612 a Belgian Jesuit, Nicolas trigault, was sent to Europe on a multiple mission. Besides recruiting missionaries and obtaining financial support and books, he obtained approval from Pope Paul V for priests to pray the Divine Office and celebrate the Mass in Chinese. The Jesuits hoped that the substitution of Chinese for Latin as the liturgical language would help the recruitment of vocations, especially among the mature and respected literati who were not able to learn enough Latin to be ordained. Unfortunately the privilege was never used, first because no Chinese translation of these texts existed and then because the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith withdrew the permission.
One achievement responsible for the success of the Jesuit mission was the reform of the imperial calendar,
which had accumulated many serious errors that Chinese astronomers had not been able to rectify. In reply to Ricci's request for trained astronomers, the Italian Giacomo Rho, the Swiss Johann Schreck (Terrentius), and the German Johann Adam Schall von Bell sailed to China. In 1629, after proving their competence by accurate predictions of eclipses, they were officially entrusted with the reform of the calendar. Due to the premature death of Schreck, Rho and Schall did the work with the help of the Christian scholar Xu Guangqi (Hsü Kuang-ch'i). When the new calendar was presented to the emperor in 1634, it greatly increased the prestige of the missionaries throughout the empire.
Arrival of Other Missionary Groups. In response to a request by the Portuguese king and to ensure a uniform missionary method in the early stage of evangelization, Pope Gregory XIII, in 1585, had granted the Society of Jesus the exclusive right to preach in Japan and China. Moreover all missionaries had to embark at Lisbon. Subsequent popes gradually lifted the restriction. In 1635, to the dismay of the Jesuits, the Franciscan Antonio Cabarello de Santa Maria and the Dominican Angelo Cocchi da Fiesole and Juan Bautista de Morales arrived from the Philippines. They settled in the province of Fujian where they were soon joined by more confreres. The first Augustinians arrived in 1680, and the first members of the newly founded paris foreign mission society (MEP), in 1684. The Dominicans retained Fujian as their main area of activity; the Franciscans, Jiangxi, Shandong, and Shanxi and Shaanxi; the Augustinians, the southern provinces; and the MEP, Sichuan and other southern and southwestern territories.
Change of Dynasty. Toward the end of the Ming dynasty, the gospel was being preached in almost all the provinces of the empire. By 1636, the Christian influence of the Jesuits in Beijing was also showing results with
140 Catholics among the princes and 70 to 80 among the ladies in attendance at the court. But the last few Ming emperors were weak and powerless to control rebellion and increasing Manchu incursions. The vigorous Manchus, attacking from the north, easily took Beijing in 1644 and established a new dynasty. Gradually, they took control of the whole empire by chasing Ming loyalists southward.
The disorder caused by the change of dynasty temporarily halted the progress of Christianity. Several missionaries lost their lives and the flourishing mission of Fujian was devastated. The Dominican (later St.) Francis de capillas was decapitated in 1648. Some Jesuits kept their allegiance to the Ming court and accompanied it in its retreat to the south. In 1648, the wife of Prince of Yongming, the last pretender to the throne, along with his son, his mother, and the empress dowager, were baptized by the Jesuit Andreas Xavier Koffler. Ultimately, the last remnants of the Mings were captured and executed by Manchurian forces.
Under the Manchu Dynasty. Schall, who first helped the unfortunate Chong Zhen (Ch'ung-chen) emperor (1627-1644) to resist the Manchus to the extent of casting cannons for him, remained in Beijing after the takeover and soon found favor with the new rulers. The first Manchu emperor was still a boy, and the regent, respecting the scientific abilities of Schall, reinstated him in his former position as imperial astronomer. The Jesuit exercised great influence over the young Shunzhi (Shunchih) emperor (1644-61) who called him "grandpa" and often summoned him for conferences on religion and politics, and even allowed him to build a church in Beijing.
After the untimely death of Shunzhi in 1661 at the age of 23, an antiforeign reaction led by astronomer Yang Guangxian set in. He accused Schall of treason and of teaching false astronomy. In late 1664 Schall was condemned to death and replaced by Yang as president of the Imperial Board of Astronomy. The death sentence was not carried out but the Jesuit, old and sick, died shortly after his release from prison. After Yang's own downfall in 1669, the Belgian Jesuit Ferdinand Verbiest became the court astronomer and obtained from the Kangxi (K'ang-hsi) emperor (1661-1722), a new investigation that led to Schall's full rehabilitation.
The Kangxi emperor, the second emperor of the Qing (Ching) Dynasty, proved to be a great protector of Christianity. Fond of Western thought and science, the emperor welcomed Jesuits to his court as astronomers, linguists, and artists. Two of them, the Portuguese Tomé Pereira and the French Jean-François Gerbillon played important roles in the conclusion of the Treaty of Nerchinsk (1689), which determined the border between China and Russia. In 1692, in gratitude for all the services rendered by the missionaries, the Kangxi emperor issued an edict of religious freedom permitting the Christian religion to be preached freely in Beijing and in the provinces. Bolstered by the prestige acquired by the Jesuits at the court, the Church, by 1700, counted about 200,000 Chinese Catholics.
Jurisdictional Problems. Since the creation of the diocese of Macau in 1576, China had been under its jurisdiction, and the right of royal patronage, i.e. the Portuguese Padroado, regulated all missionary activities. Portuguese control of missionary activities was slowly eroded when the Congregation for the propagation of the faith (Propaganda Fide) began to intervene directly in China from the 17th century onward. In 1660, Propaganda Fide sent three vicars apostolic, all cofounders of the MEP, to the Far East: François pallu, Pierre lambertde la motte and Ignace Cotolendi. In 1674, the Chinese Dominican Luo Wenzao, also known in Western sources as Gregorio López, was appointed vicar apostolic of Nanjing (Nanking) in replacement of Cotolendi who died on his way to China. Consecrated in 1685, Luo became the first local Chinese bishop, but unfortunately China would not see another Chinese bishop for 241 years.
Propaganda Fide's creation of vicariates apostolic in China provoked a violent reaction from Portugal. Missionaries sent by Rome without the consent of Lisbon were often harassed or imprisoned if caught by Portuguese authorities. In 1690 the Holy See and Portugal reached a compromise with the creation of the two bishoprics of Beijing and Nanjing as suffragans of the Portuguese Metropolitan See of goa, as was the case with Macau. Pope Alexander VIII conceded to the Portuguese crown the right of patronage over the three Chinese dioceses and even permitted Portugal to determine their boundaries. This settlement left little room for the creation
of vicariates apostolic. As a result of complaints from Propaganda Fide, in 1696 the Pope limited the jurisdiction of the three dioceses to one or two provinces while the rest of China was divided into vicariates apostolic.
Chinese Rites Controversy. The Chinese names for God as well as the rituals used to honor ancestors and Confucius were at the core of the bitter 17th-and 18th-century debate known as the chinese rites controversy. On one side stood mostly accommodative Jesuits. On the other was a large array of Franciscan, Dominican, Augustinian and MEP clergy who argued against the Jesuits that the native Chinese terminology for God and the Chinese rites to ancestors and confucius violated Christian teachings. The controversy took a turn for the worse for the Jesuits when in 1704 Bishop Charles Maigrot, who had already prohibited the Chinese Rites in his vicariate apostolic of Fujian, convinced the Holy Office of the Inquisition to issue a universal condemnation. The ruling was promulgated in Nanjing in 1707 by the papal legate Charles Maillard de tournon. Later it also served as the basis for papal decrees Ex illa die of 1715 and Ex quo singulari of 1742 that banned the Chinese Rites and prohibited further debate on the controversy. This decision has often been considered as one of the main causes of the lack of development of Christianity in China at that time. It was not until 1939 that the condemnation was annulled in the decree Plane compertum est.
Persecutions. In 1692, the Kangxi emperor had issued the Edict of Toleration protecting existing Christian church buildings throughout the provinces and allowing freedom of worship, but he became angered by Rome's condemnation of the Chinese Rites. In 1706 and again in 1720 he prohibited the preaching of Christianity and ordered the deportation of missionaries who did not conform to Ricci's views on the Chinese Rites. These decrees were not fully carried out, but under his successors persecutions periodically flared up and sometimes engulfed the whole of China. At the start of his reign, the Yongzheng (Yung-cheng) emperor (1722-35) ordered the closure of all churches and that Christians renounce their faith. While Jesuits in Beijing, such as Giuseppe Castiglione, remained in the service of the court, most other missionaries in the provinces were deported to Guangzhou and Macau. The Qianlong (Ch'ien-lung) emperor (1735-96) began his reign with a decree proclaiming the death penalty for preaching and embracing Christianity. Numerous lay Christians were killed in the persecution of 1748-1785. In 1748, two Jesuits (António-José Henriques and Tristano d'Attimis) were martyred in Jiangsu and five Dominicans—Pedro Sanz Jorda, Francisco Serrano Frias, Joaquín Perez, Juan Alcober Figuera and Francisco Díaz del Rincon——were put to death in Fujian.
The missions suffered further losses with the imprisonment and deportation of missionaries from Macau in 1762 and with the suppression of the Society of Jesus in 1773. The Lazarists (also known Vincentians) took over the Jesuits' cultural work in Beijing and Propaganda Fide tried to fill the gap in the provinces with missionaries who entered China in secret. But the French Revolution and the Napoleonic War diverted European interest from the missions. Only a dwindling number of European missionaries and Chinese priests continued to minister in China, led by a handful of bishops such as Eugenio Piloti in Shanxi-Shaanxi, Gottfried von Laimbeckhoven in Nanjing and François Pottier in Sichuan.
Early 19th-Century Developments. The dawn of the 19th century found the missions in a deplorable situation. European missionaries numbered no more than 25 and Chinese priests stood at around 50. The Catholic population had fallen to about 135,000 in a total Chinese population of 150 to 200 million. The Church in Sichuan and Guizhou in particular was the target of frequent persecutions. Among the 120 Martyrs of China canonized on October 1, 2000, nine were martyred in these two provinces between 1815 and 1839, including one bishop, Jean Gabriel Dufresse, four Chinese priests and four catechists.
The French Protectorate of Missions. A change occurred in 1842 when, by the Treaty of Nanjing marking the end of the Opium War, England acquired Hong Kong and forced China to open five ports to foreign trade. In 1844 the United States and France followed suit and obtained the same commercial privileges in the open ports as well as the rights to preach and maintain churches and hospitals. At the insistence of the French plenipotentiary Théodore de Lagrené, the Daoguang (Tao-kuang) emperor (1820-1850) in 1846 issued a decree permitting the Chinese to profess the Catholic faith. It also ordered the restitution of previously confiscated church properties and the punishment of local officials who persecuted Catholics. But the decree was never published and thus remained largely ineffective. In the 1858 Treaty of Tianjin (Tientsin), religious liberty for all Christians was reaffirmed and extended to the interior of China. Protection was also guaranteed to missionaries traveling to the interior, provided they carried valid passports. All anti-Christian legislation was revoked. While these measures were directed at the Chinese Catholic community they also greatly benefited Protestants. Meanwhile, as the sole Catholic power among the signatories, France assumed the protection of all Catholic missionaries of whatever nationality. The Beijing Convention of 1860 gave missionaries the right to buy property for religious purposes. The Berthémy Convention of 1865 further regulated this matter. With the tacit consent of the Holy See, France effectively exercised between 1860 and 1880 an exclusive protection over all Catholic missionaries, Chinese Christians and church properties in China. In 1882 Germany claimed the right to protect German missionaries and in 1888 Italy did the same for its own nationals.
Catholic Mission Activities in the 19th Century. Decrees and treaties guaranteeing religious freedom did not put an end to anti-Christian sentiment. When missionaries became involved in legal cases on behalf of Christians, it further irked the non-Christian population. Occasionally violence erupted as in the killing of Fr. Auguste Chapdelaine in 1856; the massacre at Tianjin (Tientsin) of the French consul, two priests, 10 Sisters of Charity, and eight lay persons; and the slaying of two German missionaries in Shandong (Shantung) in 1897. Most serious of all was the Boxer Uprising of 1900. Several of these incidents were utilized by Western powers to justify launching military actions against China, forcing it to make further concessions and fueling Chinese resentment against Christianity.
After 1842 the number of Catholic missionaries increased rapidly with the return of the Franciscans, the Dominicans, the Lazarists, the MEP and the Jesuits whose order had been restored 1814. New groups also joined in. The first members of the Foreign Mission Institute of Milan (PIME) arrived in 1858 and those of the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (CICM or Scheut Fathers) in 1865. A Trappist monastery was founded at Yangjiaping, Hebei, in 1883. The opening of hospitals, orphanages, and, above all, schools created great opportunities for an apostolate by women religious. The first to arrive in 1847 were the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul followed by the Sisters of St. Paul of Chartres in 1848, the Daughters of Charity of Canossa in 1860, the Helpers of the Holy Souls in 1867, the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary and the Dominican Sisters in 1886. Many other congregations of women followed.
In 1856 the Holy See began to reorganize ecclesiastical divisions. It suppressed the two bishoprics of Beijing and Nanjing still nominally under the Portuguese Padroado and divided their territory into vicariates apostolic. The 22 vicariates apostolic in 1865 increased to 44 by 1900. By early 1900, the condition of the Catholic Church in China seemed rather healthy. With a total membership of about 700,000, it had grown almost sevenfold in the course of the 19th century. At the service of that community were of 900 male missionaries, 59 foreign sisters, and 400 Chinese priests.
Protestant Mission Activities in the 19th Century. In 1807, Robert Morrison of the London Missionary Society became the first Protestant missionary to set foot in Guangzhou. In 1813 William Milne joined him. Faced with the task of preaching the Gospel in a vast and unknown country, they concentrated on the translation of hymns and prayer and in 1819 published the entire Bible in Chinese. They also began the publication of tracts, one of the most characteristic Protestant methods of evangelization in China. The first baptism of a Chinese in the Protestant Church occurred in 1814. In 1816 Liang Fa was received in the Church and a few years later became the first ordained Chinese evangelist. His pamphlet "Good Words to Admonish the Age" deeply influenced Hong Xiuquan (Hung Hsiu-ch'üan, 1814-64), the future leader of the Taiping Rebellion.
Education was to be one of the great contributions of the Protestants to the development of modern China. In 1818 Morrison and his colleague founded the Anglo-Chinese College which remained in Malacca until its move to Hong Kong in 1842. Medical work was also to become another major means of contact with the Chinese. Dr. Peter Parker, in 1835, opened a hospital in Guangzhou and three years later helped found the Medical Missionary Society.
As an interpreter and a medical practitioner, Karl Friedrich Gützlaff made three voyages along the China coast between 1831 and 1833. Finally he succeeded in entering the mainland where he remained as a freelance missionary. Through the publication of his activities in almost every Protestant missionary magazine in America and in Europe, he inspired missionaries and home supporters with a vision of the conversion of China's millions. One of them was James Hudson Taylor, the founder of the China Inland Mission. David Abeel and Elijah Bridgeman sent by the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions were the first American missionaries to arrive in Guangzhou in 1830. Samuel Wells Williams came in 1833 and collaborated with Bridgeman in the production of the Chinese Repository, designed to acquaint outsiders with all facets of Chinese life. Yet for the next twenty years, Chinese Protestants remained a small urban community of less than 300 believers.
Protestant missionary activity did not began in earnest until about 1860 when, in major cities, Anglican, Presbyterian and Methodist denominations began to establish mission stations composed of a chapel, a school and a dispensary or even a small hospital. A major exception was the China Inland Mission (CIM) founded in 1865. CIM concerned itself more with penetrating the remotest parts of China than with establishing permanent mission stations. By 1900, Protestant Christians numbered 100,000 with almost two-thirds of them living in the coastal provinces of Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangdong.
In 1877 the first all-China General Missionary Conference of the Protestant Church stressed the need to bring up a generation of educated Christians of spiritual and moral maturity. In 1879, St. John's College opened in Shanghai followed by Nanjing and Beijing Universities in 1888. Other schools offering a similar Westernstyle of education were to follow led by prominent missionaries such as the American Presbyterian W. A. P. Martin. By 1890, the total enrollment had reached almost 17,000. The high standard of these schools contrasted sharply with the more than two thousand primary schools for boys and girls established by the Catholic Church all over China with an enrollment of 50,000 students.
Catholic and Protestant missionaries alike considered medical work an important tool of evangelization, but they made use of it differently. While the Catholic Church continued to emphasize the need of small dispensaries and clinics in mission stations, the Protestant
Church quickly focussed on strategically placed hospitals and on the training of Chinese doctors.
Rebellion and Chaos. The 20th century opened with a test of faith for Chinese Christians. The antiforeign Boxer uprising led, in the late spring and early summer of 1900, to the slaughter of many thousands of Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox Christians as well as several missionaries in northern China and Inner Mongolia. Attacks culminated in June 1900 with the Boxers rampaging through Beijing, burning churches and foreign homes, and killing Christians. In the Catholic Church alone, some 30,000 people lost their lives; 86 were later canonized.
The first half of the 20th century brought tremendous changes to China as traditional institutions disappeared. In 1911 the Qing (Ching) dynasty collapsed and a republic was proclaimed. Lacking a strong central unifying authority, the country soon fell prey to factions and warlords. When unity was finally restored, the Sino-Japanese War of 1937-45 and the Civil War that followed threw the nation back into turmoil. But in spite of all these disturbances, the Catholic and Protestant churches both registered a tremendous growth during the period.
The Catholic Church, 1900-1949. Since 1881, because of increasing unfavorable political repercussions emanating from the French Protectorate, the Holy See had wanted to put more distance between missionary interests and France. Its attempts at establishing direct diplomatic relations with the Chinese government were repeatedly thwarted by France until 1922 when Bishop Celso Costantini became the first apostolic delegate to China. Although not officially a member of the diplomatic corps, Costantini became the de facto religious representative of the pope to supervise the entire Catholic Church in China. This, for all practical purposes, brought to an end the French protectorate over Catholic missions in China. Finally, in 1943, the Chinese government dispatched an ambassador to the Vatican and three years later Rome sent an internuncio to China.
At this time, a group of missionaries led by Father Vincent lebbe and Bishop Jean-Baptiste Budes de Guébriant had called not only for the Catholic Church to relinquish the protection of foreign powers but also to have its own indigenous leadership. Impetus for indigenous leadership came from Pope Benedict XV's apostolic letter Maximum illud (1919), and Costantini's own campaign for the establishment of a local Chinese hierarchy. The First Plenary Council of China held in Shanghai in 1924 saw the participation of the first two Chinese prefects apostolic and established fourteen major seminaries to provide a high standard formation for the Chinese clergy. In 1926, Costantini accompanied to Rome the first six Chinese bishops to be ordained since the days of Bishop Luo in the 17th century. Twenty years later, Pope Pius XII appointed the first-ever Chinese cardinal, Thomas Tian Gengxin of the Society of the Divine Word. The same year, the pope replaced vicariates apostolic in China with 20 archdioceses and 79 dioceses while maintaining 38 prefectures apostolic.
Another important decision of the Holy See that greatly facilitated mission work was the 1939 decree Plane compertum est of Propaganda Fide declaring the veneration of Confucius, ceremonies in honor of deceased ancestors, and other national customs to be purely civil in character and therefore permissible to Chinese Catholics.
In the 20th century, three Catholic institutions of higher education were established in China. Renowned Catholic scholar Ma Xiangbo and French Jesuits opened Aurora University (Zhendan University) in 1903. In 1922, the Jesuits also began an Industrial and Commercial College in Tianjin that later became Jingu (Tsinku) University. In 1925, American Benedictine monks established the Catholic University of Beijing (Fujen University); they handed it over to the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in 1933. After 1936, the number of Catholic secondary schools for male and female students began to grow, reaching a total of 190 by 1949. But the major educational emphasis still remained primary education in rural areas with an enrollment of over 400,000 students.
By 1938, when the Sino-Japanese War began to seriously hamper the development of most Christian churches, membership in the Catholic Church had more than quadrupled to a total of about 3,000,000. Growth resumed in 1946 and by 1949 China had 3,300,000 Catholics. Among the 5,700 priests, almost half were Chinese. Meanwhile 60 percent of the 978 brothers and 70 percent of the 6,927 sisters were also Chinese. Yet the sinization of the hierarchy was still lagging behind. In 1950, the main episcopal seats of Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Shenyang and Guangzhou were headed by Chinese bishops, but out of a total of 146 ecclesiastical divisions, 111 were still in the hands of foreigners.
The Protestant Church, 1900 to 1949. The Protestant Church continued its rapid expansion through the mid-1920s. It passed the half million mark in 1914 and by 1920 totaled over 800,000, divided mostly among Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Lutherans, Congregationalists, Anglicans and CIM. The publication in 1922 of the book The Christian Occupation of China marked the peak of missionary self-confidence.
The Student Volunteer Movement founded in 1888 recruited thousands of young Europeans and Americans under the slogan "The Evangelization of the World in This Generation." By 1919, over 2,500 volunteers had sailed to China. This led to the founding of the Chinese Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) in 1889 and of the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA) in 1899. Concentrated in the city ports, these institutions catered mainly to Chinese students. In 1922, the announcement in the YMCA magazine of the forthcoming conference in Beijing of the World Student Christian Federation led nationalistic-minded Chinese intellectuals to attack Christianity as a tool of the West for the colonization China.
In response to these charges, a Chinese Christian movement for a Chinese Christianity free from the taint of imperialism began to emerge. This led to the formation of the National Christian Council in 1922 and the Church of Christ in China in 1927. These organizations were attempts to overcome denominational divisions and among the first efforts to establish a self-supporting, self-governing and self-propagating church.
Besides the traditional Christian denominations, independent churches led by charismatic indigenous pastors had already come into being by the 1920s. The Chinese Independent Church began in 1906, the True Jesus Church in 1917, the Jesus Family in 1921, and the Little Flock in 1922. These groups maintained strict standards of social control guided by theologies that were as idiosyncratic as they were fundamentalist. In terms of both numbers and influence, the indigenous churches were a force to be reckoned with. In 1949, these four groups alone drew a membership of over 230,000 out of nearly one million Chinese Protestants.
Despite disruption during the war years, Protestant work in medicine and education remained considerable. By 1949, there were a total of 13 Protestant-run universities and 240 secondary schools. Protestant hospitals numbered 322 while Catholics ran 216.
The Russian Orthodox Church in the Early 20th Century. The Russian Orthodox mission in China had begun in 1727. However, active proselytizing was not its style, and the Church consisted mainly of small Russian enclaves within areas where the Russians settled. As a result of the influx of White Russians who fled the 1917 Russian Revolution, the Church grew to more than 200,000 members in the early 20th century. By 1939, the Russian Orthodox Church had established five bishoprics and a university in Haerbin (Harbin) in northeast China. Many departed China in 1949, leaving only scattered small communities. The East Asian Exarchate of the Moscow Patriarcate of Moscow existed until 1956, when Moscow granted it autocephalous status. The ordinary of the autochepalous Orthodox Church of China resides in Haerbin (Harbin), where a thriving Russian Orthodox community continues to exist.
Early Communist Rule, 1949-1966. The civil war in China between the Nationalist forces of Jiang Jie-shī (Chiang Kai-shek) and the Communists led by Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-tung) resulted in victory for Mao and the founding of the People's Republic of China in October 1949. Initially, the populist tenets of the Communists appealed to some Chinese Protestants actively involved in preaching the social gospel. They believed that the Christian gospel could be combined with the gospel of Chinese communism, especially the teaching on serving the poor. Several Church leaders headed by Wu Yaozong (Y. T. Wu) began to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai to discuss the role of churches in the new China. In July 1950, a Christian Manifesto was issued. Even though the manifesto was at first slow in gaining momentum, eventually over 400,000 signatures were gathered. It urged the Protestant Church to cut off ties with the imperialist powers, to support national reconstruction, and to build a Chinese Church managed by Chinese. This called for a church that was self-governing, self-propagating, and self-supporting—a "Three-Self" church. Organized into committees at the national, provincial, and municipal levels, the Three-Self Movement was the liaison between the Churches and the government organ of the Religious Affairs Bureau and ensured the Church's participation in common national goals as determined by the United Front of the Chinese Communist Party. Citing the need for the Protestant Church to consolidate resources, personnel, finances, and church facilities in order to survive, the Three-Self Movement organizational machinery gradually replaced denominational structures and even the National Christian Council.
In reaction to the Communist victory, the Catholic Church organized for survival. A primary instrument in this task was the Legion of Mary established in 1948. Despite persecutions in some places during 1950, the Catholic Church as a whole remained strongly anti-Communist and continued to flourish. The first sign of a movement similar to the Protestant Three-Self was a manifesto published in November 1950 under the leadership of the Chinese priest Wang Liangzuo. The document contained the three autonomous principles and called for the severance of all ties with the forces of imperialism. Yet with regard to self-governance, it spoke of political independence from the Vatican while maintaining a "religious connection" with the pope. The bishops responded by insisting that no alliance existed between the Church and imperialism and by strongly condemning the formation of a national or independent Catholic Church.
Meanwhile the Oppose America-Aid Korea Movement intensified the campaign against the churches. Denunciations of missionaries and Chinese Christians led to punishment, imprisonment, and expulsions. Because of the definite stand of the Catholic Church against communism, the Communists persecuted and detained a larger number of Catholics than Protestants. The majority of Protestant missionaries had left by the end of 1951 and Catholic missionaries by the end of 1955. Their institutions and properties, such as universities, hospitals, orphanages, were taken over and nationalized or confiscated by the government. After the Papal Nuncio Antonio Riberi was forced to leave in September 1951, relations between the Chinese government and the Vatican were severed. In 1952 Pope Pius XII published his Apostolic Letter Cupimus imprimis to strengthen the faith of Chinese Catholics, and in 1954 another Apostolic Letter entitled Ad Sinarum gentem discouraged the Chinese Church from proclaiming autonomy and independence from the Holy See. The Chinese government, offended by the critical tone of the letters, confronted the Church even more boldly with more arrests of church leaders opposed to the independent Church movement. At this juncture, Catholic bishops decided to send most of their seminarians abroad to continue their studies.
In 1954 a change in emphasis, characterized by the adoption of the term "patriotic," began to take place in the native movement for the reform of both the Protestant and Catholic Churches. Instead of speaking of the "independent Church" or "reforming the Church," which could be interpreted as aiming to change the structure or the nature of the Church, the emphasis was placed on patriotism, which no Chinese Christian could reject. Protestants changed the name of their organization to Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM) while "progressive" Catholics established "patriotic associations" that resulted, in 1957, in the founding of the national Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). The Catholic Association in its first meeting declared it would thenceforth take charge of its own affairs without any outside interference and maintain a purely religious relationship with the Vatican.
By 1955 the Catholic resistance movement, crushed by mass arrests and condemnations to forced labor, went underground. The witness of Bishop Gong Pinmei (Ignatius Kung) of Shanghai and many others who chose jail, labor camps, and even death for the sake of their faith and their loyalty to the pope would sustain the faith in the years ahead. Meanwhile several Protestant groups, mostly Evangelical Christians, also refused to submit to Communist pressure and continued to carry out their activities in their own ways in spite of the imprisonment of their pastors and leaders. This progressively led to the development of the Protestant and Catholic underground churches. At the same time, more and more Protestants and Catholics began to rally to the cause of the patriotic movements.
The general picture after 1957 is that of a steady decline in church activity as a result of government constraint and lack of church personnel and resources. On the Protestant side the situation hastened the change towards unification of the various denominations, although there is little doubt that the process was not truly voluntary. The Catholic Church felt the urgency of filling up some one hundred episcopal vacancies because Chinese priests who were appointed administrators prior to the departure of the foreign bishops remained for the most part in prison. In 1958, the Holy See, which had only appointed 18 Chinese bishops since 1949, refused to endorse names proposed by bishops who had joined the CCPA. Considering the times to be extraordinary, these bishops went ahead and began to perform ordinations of bishops without papal approval. Saddened by the news, Pope Pius XII in his encyclical Ad apostolorum principis expressed his disapproval of the CCPA and stated that the authority for making episcopal appointments was his alone. Not unexpectedly, the government reacted by forbidding Catholic authorities to have further recourse to the Holy See. Thus began the ordinations of "patriotic" bishops chosen by the CCPA and ordained without the approval of Rome. By 1962, their number had reached 42 while those formerly appointed by Rome had fallen to about 20. Bishops who supported independent episcopal ordinations had to declare that they had broken off all relations with Rome; those who refused were imprisoned. The Catholic underground church was born of this confrontation.
The Cultural Revolution, 1966–1976. The Red Guard assault on religion that began in August 1966 was, in one sense, merely the culmination of the process that had begun in 1957. Ten years of Cultural Revolution plunged all Christians into a de facto clandestinity and resulted in the closure of churches, the destruction of religious artifacts and the burning of Bibles and Christian books. The few Protestant seminaries that had managed to remain open were also shut down. Both the TSPM and the CCPA stopped functioning. Clergy, nuns and numerous Christian workers were publicly humiliated, tortured, and then sent to prisons and labor camps to join their colleagues who had previously refused to join the Christian patriotic associations. No public church activities were tolerated until 1971 when two churches reopened in Beijing for the benefit of foreign Protestant and Catholic students and diplomats.
Post Revolution and Revival. In 1976, the 10-year nightmare of the Cultural Revolution came to an end. Religious leaders were set free and resumed their ministry while the ban on religious belief and practice was relaxed. A further sign of a more benevolent attitude toward religion came in 1978 with the reappearance of representatives from the five officially recognized religions—Taoism, Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, and Islam—at the meeting of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference. This consultative body has no political power but serves as a bridge between the constituencies of the delegates, the Communist party, and the government. The TSPM and the CCPA resurfaced and became instrumental in the return of church properties to their former religious purposes. In 1982, China's new constitution dropped the ultra-leftist content of the preceding ones and recognized the freedom of religious belief for all Chinese people. The right to engage in "normal" religious activities was also affirmed but has remained strictly controlled by the Religious Affairs Bureau since only what the government permits is considered normal and what it does not permit is not only considered not normal but can even be construed as illegal. This submission of the churches to government control is therefore not done without danger of putting the integrity of the faith at some risk and, as a consequence, of jeopardizing authentic Christian living.
"Cultural" Christians. The 1980s also brought the rise of the "Cultural" Christians phenomenon. These Chinese academics and intellectuals read the Bible, studied Christian philosophy and theology, and wrote extensively on religious topics, but for the most part they did not seek baptism or join a church. Thanks to their translation efforts, important patristic and theological works soon became available in Chinese.
Meanwhile the government, wary of the popular interest in Christianity and the substantial increase in church attendance, spoke of "Christian fever." It was also worried by the resilience of the Catholic and Protestant underground churches which steadfastly refused to submit to the control of the TSPM or the CCPA. This led the government in 1989 to introduce a number of administrative measures to enact a stricter control over the membership and leadership of religious activities, including the registration of places of worship. The ban against the Falun Gong spiritual movement in July 1999 further intensified the nationwide crackdown on all unauthorized religious activities. Arrests of Protestants and Catholics who gathered without official permission increased. Even harsher was the treatment of Protestant Evangelicals whose illegal gatherings the police construed as prohibited cults rather than services belonging to one of the five recognized religions. As of 2001, the Communist regime still pursued a policy of allowing registered Christian communities to develop while eradicating all the others. That year, there were over 22,000 registered Protestant and Catholic churches, but this number fell short of meeting the needs of the widely spread and growing Christian communities.
Even with the reopening of China to the West, religious activities of foreigners within China remained strictly controlled. The issuance in September 2000 of a new set of government regulations added fresh measures to restrictions already spelled out in 1994 and 1995. Except for the attendance at religious services at lawfully registered monasteries, temples, mosques and churches, foreigners were prohibited from engaging in religious activities or friendly cultural and academic exchanges with Chinese religious circles without the prior approval of Chinese religious bodies. For Protestants and Catholics this meant the permission of the TSPM or the CCPA at the county or even the provincial level. The 12 articles made it difficult for foreigners to contact underground communities and further curtailed their influence in government-approved religious bodies.
The Protestant Church after 1980 . In the Protestant Church, a meeting held in October 1980 resulted in the creation of a new structure called the China Christian Council parallel to the TSPM. The TSPM heeds to the United Front policy of the government by ensuring the Church active participation in the socialist modernization of the country. The China Christian Council helps the Church to further its religious and pastoral duties. The two organizations have interlocking committees, with many of the people holding dual offices in the two organizations. It can be inferred from the dual arrangement that, while the Church is prepared to fulfill its pastoral calling, it is also obliged to reckon with the policy of the Communist party. The Bureau of Religious Affairs is the government agency that executes the religious policy of the state and is the body that the Church must deal with in matters of church-state relations.
The Chinese Protestant Church is nondenominational in character and the China Christian Council is the umbrella organization under which all the congregations are subsumed. A common catechism has been adopted. Although formal denominations no longer exist, traces of different customs and beliefs survive in everyday Church life. The National Union Theological Seminary in Nanjing was the first seminary to reopen in 1981. Since then more than a dozen seminaries and theological schools with male and female students have been established in major Chinese cities.
In addition to the more than 12,000 officially registered churches, countless groups that identify themselves as Protestant Christians meet in homes or other places. The name "house churches" is sometimes used in the West to designate those groups that meet for prayer in defiance of the China Christian Council. However it is an oversimplification to say that there are two large segments diametrically opposed to each other. Extra-church gatherings are part of the Protestant Church life, while many communities still without churches have no other place to meet but in individual homes. Many of the tens of thousands of these "meeting points" are registered and recognized by the China Christian Council. Nonetheless there are as many groups that still convene in defiance of government regulations and refuse all forms of collaboration with the TSPM and the China Christian Council. These Christians, many belonging to fundamentalist indigenous churches, live under the constant threat of being fined and arrested for illegal gathering and of having their unregistered meeting places torn down. Since the beginning of the campaign against the Falun Gong in 1999, such instances of prosecution have increased.
Many in the main Protestant body consider that self-imposed isolation among indigenous groups of recent origin has resulted in serious doctrinal deviations. This has led to a debate as to whether the followers of some of these Christian-inspired movements should still be regarded as Christians. Estimates of the total number of Protestant Christians therefore vary widely. Most reliable sources inside and outside China put the figure at about fifteen million adherents in the registered Church and at least as many in the underground. They are ministered by more than 1,400 pastors and several thousands of evangelists and lay church workers.
The Amity Foundation is remarkable evidence of Chinese Protestant spirit of service to the society. Established in 1985 on the initiative of the Anglican Bishop K. H. Ting and other concerned Christians, Amity Foundation represents a new and successful form of Christian involvement in Chinese society. The foundation concentrates its energy on areas of special needs in education, health and welfare, carrying out projects in impoverished western China and assisting the growing number of elderly people and unemployed workers. Since its inception, Amity has also invited friendly church agencies overseas to participate in its projects through grants, supply of equipment, and recruitment of experts and foreign language teachers. The other major activity of the Amity Foundation is its printing press. Prior to its establishment, Protestant publications had to rely entirely on government-owned presses. Since July 1995, it has published over ten million Bibles in Chinese. Besides the production of Bibles and Christian pamphlets and journals, it also prints materials of other major religious faiths and of general service to society. Tian Feng (Heavenly Wind) is the official publication the TSPM and the China Christian Council. Religious literature produced by the Protestant Church or by any religious group for that matter, remains strictly controlled and cannot be made available in commercial bookstores. With the authorization of the government, it can however be distributed on church premises and through subscription or mail order.
A Divided Catholic Church. At the beginning of the 21st century, the situation of the Catholic Church in China remains very complex and still evolving, but contrary to some reports there has never been a schism within that Church. There is rather one Church that exists in two forms. One is approved by the government and linked to the CCPA. It is often referred to as the Open Church because it functions openly in churches registered with the government. The other group, often referred to as the Underground Church, refuses any control from the Communist regime and therefore operates in private homes or public buildings without seeking government approval.
The Open Catholic Church. Although its roots can be traced back to the emergence of the CCPA in 1957, the division itself became really apparent only after the clergy returned to their dioceses in 1978 and 1979. Since the new policy of the government allowed them to function in public, rather than in hiding, many did so. With less than 30 bishops still alive, some who had been imprisoned for their unswerving loyalty to the pope and had refused any relationship with the CCPA were now more willing to cooperate with the association for the future of the Catholic Church in China. After 1981, the requirement that both consecrators and consecrated ones should swear their independence from Rome was dropped and resulted in more priests willing to accept the episcopal ordination. Several of these bishops secretly obtained legitimization of their status from the pope. Some even actively sought higher positions within the CCPA in order to influence its decision and curb its tendency toward unilateral control.
In late May 1980 more than two hundred delegates representing the government-registered Catholic Church gathered in Beijing to attend the Third National Convention of the CCPA and the National Catholic Representatives Assembly. These two meetings held back-to-back resulted in a major reorganization of structures within the Church with the creation of two additional national organizations: the Chinese Catholic Church Administrative Commission and the Chinese Catholic Bishops Conference. From this point forward, the CCPA relinquished its role as overseer of all Church concerns, relegating itself to look after external affairs and church-state relations. Responsibility for doctrinal and pastoral affairs was given over to the clergy and church leaders. In 1992, further reorganization placed the Bishops Conference on an equal footing with the CCPA while reducing the Church Administrative Commission to a committee responsible for pastoral affairs under the control of the Bishops Conference. Five additional committees were also set up to oversee Seminary Education, Liturgy, Theological Study, Finance Development, and International Relationships. Initiatives in the areas of pastoral work, training of clergy and in the social apostolate of the Church indicate that the new structures are effectively implemented. Since the 1990s, selected seminarians and clergy from the Open Church have been allowed to leave China for further theological training in Catholic seminaries and universities in the United States. As a result, a potential channel has been opened for future reconciliation between the Holy See and the Open Church.
With many ups and downs, the Open Church's attitude toward papal primacy has gradually improved. The prayer for the pope that had been removed from the book of Collection of Important Prayers was reintroduced in 1982. In February 1989, the government issued a document, known as Document 3, allowing spiritual affiliation with the Holy See and at its meeting, in April of the same year, the Bishops Conference promptly acknowledged the pope as the spiritual leader of the Chinese Church. By the end of the decade, most congregations had also restored the prayer for the pope in the Eucharistic Prayers of the Mass.
The Underground Catholic Church. Many clergy released at the end of the Cultural Revolution were still unwilling to join any Catholic organization registered with the government. They refused to live at a church with other priests who had married, had betrayed others, or had publicly denied the primacy of the pope. Therefore they carried out religious activities in private, and gradually attracted a great number of Catholics to join with them. Bishop Fan Xueyan of Baoding diocese in Hebei province was released in 1979 and acted as the leader of the Underground Church. Recognizing the urgent need for bishops in several dioceses, he ordained in 1981 three bishops without recourse to government or Open Church approval. When Pope John Paul II learned of the circumstances that prompted such a procedure, he legitimized the new bishops and granted them and Bishop Fan special faculties to ordain successors a well as bishops for vacant seats of neighboring dioceses. By 1989 the Underground Church had more than 50 bishops who set up their own episcopal conference. Rome also gave underground bishops the authority to ordain priests without the required lengthy seminary training. This has accounted for the overall poor doctrinal instruction of many priests in the Underground. Moreover, signs of excess and lack of coordination have appeared with some dioceses having as many as three bishops claiming to be the legitimate ordinary.
Since 1989, the Underground Church has been the target of mounting pressure from the government. The same government document of February 1989 that recognized the spiritual leadership of the pope also delineated the steps to be taken in dealing with the members of the Underground Church. Communist cadres were asked to differentiate between underground forces that clung to their hostility and stirred up believers and those who did not join the Open Church because of their faith in the pope. The former category, said the document, must be dealt with severely while patience should be used with the latter. Accordingly the government regarded the setting up of an episcopal conference by the clandestine bishops in November 1989 as a provocation. It resulted in the arrest of several leaders including Bishop Fan. At the local level the implementation of that policy has remained vague and vacillating, resulting in sporadic destruction of unregistered religious buildings, temporary detention and the levy of heavy fines. However, since the ban of the Falun Gong in July 1999, repressive measures against unregistered Catholic communities have also greatly increased.
Toward Reconciliation. This situation has pitted those who chose to worship under the supervision of the government and those who refused to do so. Since 1980 the two sides have gradually moved away from mistrust and bitter accusations to an attitude of understanding respect and to concrete acts of cooperation and genuine efforts at reconciliation. The dividing lines between the two are becoming increasingly blurred. Fidelity to the Holy See has become less an issue since Pope John Paul II has legitimized most of the bishops in the Open Church and most of the new ones are being ordained with his tacit approval. For an ever-growing number of clergy, sisters and ordinary Christians, the division does not make much sense. Many in a courageous and prophetic manner act as bridges between both sides of the Church.
Sino-Vatican Relations. Pope John Paul II has made repeated pleas to the Catholics of China to display toward one another "a love which consists of understanding, respect, forbearance, forgiveness and reconciliation." A complete normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican cannot happen unless reconciliation first occurs within the Chinese Catholic Church. Informal talks between the Vatican and the Chinese Government have taken place intermittently since the late 1980s. Beijing realizes that it has much to gain from restoring such ties but insists that Rome should first sever its relations with Taiwan. The Vatican sees in the diplomatic normalization a greater freedom and potential for further growth of the Chinese Catholic Church. While progress has been made in finding common ground between them, two events in 2000—the Open Church's ordinations of bishops without papal mandate on January 6 and 25, and Rome's canonization of 120 Martyrs of China on October 1—seriously undermined the negotiations. These misunderstandings highlighted the gulf that continues to separate the Holy See and the Chinese government.
The Catholic Church at the Beginning of the 21st Century. By 1980, it was estimated that less than 1,300 Chinese priests were actively engaged in ministry, and many of those were elderly. The fate of Chinese sisters had not been less terrible than that of priests and seminarians and by 1980, just over one thousand remained. The training of new church leaders and the reopening of seminaries and novitiates was a most urgent priority. Sheshan Regional Seminary near Shanghai was the first Catholic house of formation to reopen in 1982. By 2000, 24 seminaries had been allowed to operate with government permission and another 10 existed in the Underground Church. Formation programs for women religious were carried out in 40 novitiates in the Open Church and 20 in the Underground Church.
In a country where Church educational activities have been drastically curtailed, the Catholic presses of Beijing, Shanghai, and Shijiazhuang in Hebei province are, together with the Protestant Amity Press, important means for reaching out to Christian and non-Christian Chinese. They publish Bibles, Christian literature and journals. They have also reprinted in simplified characters many Chinese translations coming from Taiwan and Hong Kong such as the documents of Vatican II, the liturgy of the Mass, the new code of Canon Law and the new Universal Catechism. The official journal of the CCPA is Zhongguo Tianzhujiao (The Catholic Church in China). The Hebei Catholic press also publishes Xinde (Faith), a biweekly newspaper with a distribution of 45,000 copies. Distributed in most of the provinces of China it has a readership of over half a million people in the Underground and Open Churches as well as among non-Christians. Besides relaying news of the Church within and outside China, the newspaper also encourages readers to send funds for various charitable causes. Responses have been so enthusiastic that it has led to the establishment of a Catholic social service center called Jinde (Progress) to handle donations for Catholic charity work.
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