Della Chiesa, Bernardino

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Bishop and vicar apostolic; b. Venice, May 8, 1664;d. Linqing, China, Dec. 21, 1721. He was sent by the Holy See to China to enforce the subjection of all missionaries to the vicars and to terminate the Portuguese and Spanish patronage. He sailed in October 1680 with Basilio brollo and three other confreres, spent two years in Siam (Thailand), and entered China by Guangzhou on Aug. 27, 1684. Upon Bp. François pallu's death on October 29, he succeeded him as vicar apostolic of Fujian vicariate and general administrator of all China missions despite Charles Maigrot's pretensions. In 1685 he named Brollo his provicar and made a partial visit of several provinces. During 1686, accompanied by Brollo, he revisited these missions, confirming many. In 1689 he at once published the decree he obtained from Propaganda revoking the oath of subjection to the vicars that had been responsible for the self-suspension and departure of missionaries. Rumors of the division of China into three dioceses under Portuguese patronage made his position uncertain. Thereupon in 1691 he bought a house in Nanjing, and exercised the authority of vicar apostolic, but refrained from visitations pending clarification. Finally, in 1700 armed with the bull naming him bishop of the newly set diocese of Beijing, he reached his see, made a pastoral visit, and settled at Linqing, Shandong. In November 1705 he welcomed there Patriarch Carlo T. Maillard de tournon, apostolic legate to China, on his way to court. In January 1706 he joined the sick legate and assisted him to the end of his ill-fated legation, returning to Linqing with the legate on October 4. The next day, before seeing the legate off, he deeded his house to the Propaganda.

In force of the imperial decree of Dec. 17, 1706, he requested and was granted the imperial certificate on an affidavit to follow Matteo ricci, SJ, and remain in China for life, and asked his missionaries to do likewise. Obedient servant of the Holy See, he carried out its policies as well as he could. Aging and laboring under great difficulties, he could not take part in the legation of Patriarch Carlo A. mezzabarba (1720), and died the following year. His greatest merit was to have established the hierarchical Church and to have fostered peace and harmony among missionaries in China under most trying circumstances (see chinese rites controversy).

Bibliography: Sinica franciscana, ed. a. van den wyngaert, 5 v. (Quaracchi-Florence 192954); v.6, ed. g. mensaert (Rome 1961). a. s. rosso, Apostolic Legations to China of the Eighteenth Century (South Pasadena, Calif. 1948). g. mensaert, "L'Établissment de la hiérarchie catholique en Chine de 1684 à 1721," Archivum Franciscanum historicum 48 (1953) 369416.

[a. s. rosso]