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Home Chinese Culture   China Religions Catholic in China


Religions in China 

 Catholic in China

The Catholic Church in China
The teachings of the Catholic Church was first brought to China during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), but they were not widely disseminated until the arrival of Italian missionary Matteo Ricci (15552-1610) in 1582, the tenth year of Emperor Wanli’s reign in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). The arrival of Matteo Ricci is generally considered to be the official introduction of the Catholic Church into China.

By the end of the Ming Dynasty, there were nearly 40,000 Chinese Catholics. By the early days of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), there were 300,000 Chinese Catholics, but because the Holy See forbade the Chinese followers to offer sacrifices to their ancestors and to Confucius, an etiquette dispute erupted and lasted for nearly 100 years. Finally the Qing imperial court forbade Catholic activities in the country reducing the number of Chinese Catholic to just 200,000 by the end of the 18th century.

After the Opium War of 1840, the Qing Dynasty was forced to sign unfair treaties with Western Powers, life the ban on the Catholic Church, and give privileges to foreign missionaries. By 1900, the Catholic Church population increased to 700,000.

Before the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, the Chinese Catholic Church was controlled by dozens of missions in more than 10 countries, and the Chinese clergy had no rights. Of the 137 parishes in the country, only 29 were managed by Chinese bishops. At the time, there were about three million Chinese Catholics.

In the early 1950’s, a number of visionary Chinese Catholics examined the history of the Catholic Church and initiated a patriotic movement, pushing the Chinese Catholic Church on the road of administrating the religion by the Chinese Catholics themselves. In April 1958, the clergy superiors and other Catholic believers in Hankou and Wuchang parishes selected and ordained two bishops, and they reported the appointment to the Holy See, which refused to recognize the bishops and threatened to mete out extraordinary punishments. Thus, the Chinese Catholic Church had no choice but to cut off contacts with the Vatican. Later, bishops were selected and ordained by Catholics in different parts of China.

The Chinese Catholic Church now has 115 parishes, 70 bishops, 1,100 priests, 1,200 nuns, and over four million lay followers. The Chinese Catholic Church has established two national organizations: The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, formed in 1957 in Beijing, with Bishop Fu Tieshan as the current president; and the Chinese Catholics Bishops’ Conference, founded in 1980 in Beijing, with Bishop Liu Yuanren as president. Bishop Liu has a theological research center, five special committees responsible for teaching, theological seminaries, rituals, liaison with foreign religious organizations, economic development, and social services, under his jurisdiction.

China has 5,000 Catholic churches and 36 seminaries with 1,900 students. Since 1981, more than 900 priests have been consecrated. There are also 50 noviciates, with more than 1,000 novices who have taken their initial vows. China’s principal Catholic churches include the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception of B.M.V (Xuanwumen Church), Our Savior Cathedral (Xishiku Church), both in Beijing; the Cathedral of Mary Mother of God (Xujiahui Church), in Shanghai; the Cathedral of St. Michael, Qingdao; the Cathedral of St. Joseph (Laoxikai Church), Tianjin; the Hongjialou Church in Jinan; and the Sheshan Church in Shanghai.

The Chinese Catholic Church owns a publishing house and has printed more than three million copies of the Bible and other religious books. The Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association jointly publish and distribute a bimonthly, “the Catholic Church in China”. In addition, foreign languages schools, kindergartens, clinics, rehabilitation centers, homes for the aged, and other social welfare undertakings have been set up in various parishes. Some parishes have sent donations to regions affected by natural calamities and to Project Hope schools. These welfare activities have brought praise to the Catholic Church from all circles of Chinese society.

In recent years, the Chinese Catholic Church has dispatched more than 100 priests, seminarians, and nuns to study theology in the United States, France, Britain, Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Philippines, and South Korea. Some of them have obtained doctors or master’s degrees and returned to take up teaching posts at seminaries and convents in China.

Theologians from the United States, Belgium, and Hong Kong have been invited to lecture in China’s theological seminaries, and the Chinese Catholics Church has sent delegations to more than 20 countries on the invitation of their foreign counterparts.



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