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Sixty years since first mass arrests of Catholics in Shanghai

SHANGHAI (UCAN): September 8 marked the 60th anniversary of one of the darkest weeks of the Catholic Church in China—a massive crackdown on the diocese of Shanghai that saw Bishop Ignatius Kung Pingmei thrown into jail, where he was destined to remain for the next 30 years.

Now firmly etched in history, 8 September 1955, the feast of the Nativity of Mary, was the day that Bishop Kung (also known as Gong Pingmei and later made a cardinal) and more than 50 priests, including two Jesuits, Father Joseph Fan Zhongliang and Father Aloysius Jin Luxian, later a bishop in Shanghai, were arrested.

Cardinal Kung was accused of the crimes of supporting the Legion of Mary, excommunicating Catholics who joined the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and refusing to establish a branch of the association in his diocese of Shanghai.

In the ensuing month, at least 300 laypeople, mostly members of the Legion of Mary, were also arrested and more than 1,000 Catholics were jailed for what was termed counter-revolutionary crimes.

Months after his arrest, Cardinal Kung was ordered to make a public confession of his crimes. With his hands tied behind his back, the bishop instead cried out, “Long live Christ the King; long live the pope,” the Cardinal Kung Foundation claims.

Security personnel dragged the bishop away and he disappeared from public life until he was brought to trial in 1960 when he was sentenced to life in prison.

In Rome on that day this year, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, the former bishop of Hong Kong, together with a small group of Catholic people from Shanghai, commemorated the event with a Mass.

The Mass was organised by Jesuit Father Matteo Chu, from Taiwan. His older brother, Father Zhu Yude, the vicar general of the unofficial community in Shanghai, was unable to be present.

“I hoped more heroic stories of how the Shanghai Catholics defended their faith could have been published for more people to know,” Cardinal Zen said.

In Shanghai, Ignatius Xu said that during a Mass preceding the commemoration a priest noted that September 8 is a date worth remembering, because Catholics arrested in the crackdown suffered for their faith.

“The theme of the commemoration was designed to be a blessing rather than an occasion of sadness and enmity,” Xu said.

He added that when religious activities in China were revived in the 1980s following the Cultural Revolution, many priests who had been caught up in the 1955 crackdown returned to Shanghai and became a major force in the unofficial community.

Father Lu Peiyuan and Father Yan Zhi’en are the only two priests who were arrested still living in Shanghai.

Father Lu is 93 and still in good health.


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