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News from the USCCA and the church in China

The Rise of China and What it Means for the Church

China's transformation since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949 has been dramatic. What have been the implications of this transformation for the Church in China? How has this affected relations with the Vatican and the wider Christian community? Fr. Mariani provides an overview of leadership policy in China, then focus on how its current leaders see their "historical mission." How does this backdrop help us to better understand the developments of the past ten years leading up to today?

about fr. paul mariani

Paul P. Mariani, S.J., is the author of Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai (Harvard University Press, 2011) and holder of the Edmund Campion, S.J., Endowed Chair in the Department of History at Santa Clara University. His ongoing research focuses on religious policy and conflict in China, and specifically on Christian resistance in China since 1950.

The PResentation

further resources

Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai By 1952 the Chinese Communist Party had suppressed all organized resistance to its regime and stood unopposed, or so it has been believed. Internal party documents—declassified just long enough for historian Paul Mariani to send copies out of China—disclose that one group deemed an enemy of the state held out after the others had fallen. A party report from Shanghai marked “top-secret” reveals a determined, often courageous resistance by the local Catholic Church. Drawing on centuries of experience in struggling with the Chinese authorities, the Church was proving a stubborn match for the party.

Mariani tells the story of how Bishop (later Cardinal) Ignatius Kung Pinmei, the Jesuits, and the Catholic Youth resisted the regime’s punishing assault on the Shanghai Catholic community and refused to renounce the pope and the Church in Rome. Acting clandestinely, mirroring tactics used by the previously underground CCP, Shanghai’s Catholics persevered until 1955, when the party arrested Kung and 1,200 other leading Catholics. The imprisoned believers were later shocked to learn that the betrayal had come from within their own ranks.

Though the CCP could not eradicate the Catholic Church in China, it succeeded in dividing it. Mariani’s secret history traces the origins of a deep split in the Chinese Catholic community, where relations between the “Patriotic” and underground churches remain strained even today.

People, Communities, and the Catholic Church in China (Co-edited by Fr. Mariani and Cindy Chu)

This edited volume explores various facets of the Catholic Church in post-Maoist China. The eight contributions successively focus on the impact of state control over Catholic communities during the late twentieth century, the influence of ecclesial figures like Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian (1916–2013) in Shanghai and Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun (1932–) in Hong Kong, the role of Catholic institutions like the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum Sinense and the Jinde Charities Foundation, as well as the significance of the Sheshan Miracle, which occurred near Shanghai in March 1980 and the ongoing transformation of youth ministry in mainland China. A key feature of this book is that contributors offer insiders’ points of view since most of them are Catholic clergy members involved in the transformation of the Church in China. Together, they provide a rich account of the many factors and actors that shape the evolving reality of Chinese Catholicism. Consequently, this book illustrates how Chinese Catholics and their institutions cannot be reduced to a mere political question or to issues of religious freedom, an approach that unduly dominates most debates on Chinese Catholicism. While complicated church – state relations are carefully revisited, contributors open new doors of investigation, showing for instance how popular piety, social work and younger generations question the ways in which Chinese Catholicism takes shape today. Although one might have hoped that some chapters would have adopted a more critical and analytical approach, the scope and coherence of the volume can only benefit those interested in contemporary Chinese Catholicism. The conversations it initiates call for further inquiry on how Chinese Catholicism responds to and contrasts with other Chinese religions – including Chinese Protestantism. While all religions – either in Taiwan or in mainland China – have shown great signs of vitality, the number of Catholics somehow stagnates in mainland China and declines in Taiwan. This particularism remains unexplained and calls for further investigation with cross-religious and transregional attention.


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