CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

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Hong Kong’s only blessed honoured in his hometown

HONG KONG (UCAN): The former residence in Sicily of Blessed Gabriele Allegra (1907 to 1976), the Italian Franciscan priest and bible scholar who produced the first Catholic translation of the bible in Chinese, will be converted into a pilgrimage site partly courtesy of the generosity of Catholic people in China.
 
Gabriel’s Fra Le Genti, an association formed in honour Father Allegra, announced that custody of his former residence in Sicily was transferred to it on May 10 this year.
 
The association, founded in 2015 by Rosario Allegra, a nephew of Father Allegra, plans to turn the site into a place of retreat and spirituality.
 
A thanksgiving Mass was held in front of the house on May 15 to mark the beginning of the renovation project expected to be completed in 2018.
 
“The chapel with the tomb of Father Allegra in Sicily is very small. The pilgrim centre will provide an integrated place for people to commemorate him, especially Catholics from China and Hong Kong,” Hong Kong-based Brother William Ng OFM said.
 
The Order of Friars Minor in Hong Kong and Catholic people in China are among the supporters of the project. Brother Ng said he hopes that the pilgrimage centre will inspire more visitors to think about missionaries to China.
 
Sister Lucy Chung, from the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Sorrows, an active supporter of the project, said Father Allegra’s relics had been spread here and there around Sicily, so his nephews decided to collect and display them in one place.
 
“Turning the residence into a pilgrimage centre will let more people know about the passion of Father Allegra’s mission in China and his devotion to the divine word,” Sister Chung said.
 
“His nephew came to Hong Kong for the celebration of the centenary of the birth of Father Allegra this year. He told me about his idea and invited people who knew him to be involved. We are doing this to show our gratitude to Father Allegra for bringing us the bible in Chinese,” Sister Chan, who has a good memory of meeting Father Allegra, said.
 
Father Allegra was born in 1907 and is best known for producing the first full Catholic translation of the bible in Chinese, which led to his popular name of St. Jerome of China.
 
Inspired by Giovanni da Montecorvino, the first Franciscan missionary to China in the 13th century, Father Allegra went to work in central Hunan province in 1931.
 
He was the founder of the Studium Biblicum Franciscanum in Beijing in 1945, but it was relocated to Hong Kong three years later due to the political turmoil on the mainland.
 
What is the first and still is the only official Chinese translation from Hebrew, Aramaic and Greek was published in 1968.
 
Father Allegra died on 26 January 1976 and he was beautified in 2012 making him the first blessed to have lived in Hong Kong, as well as the first from the Franciscan province of Taiwan-Hong Kong.
 
The beatification followed recognition by Pope John Paul II that a miracle had taken place through Father Allegra’s intercession in 2002.
 
However, his beatification was delayed, as Beijing still had its nose out of joint over the anti-Communist articles he had penned during an earlier stage of his life.
 
They were mostly written during his three years in Singapore between 1961 and 1963 as the head of a social institute set up by the Vatican to produce and disseminate anti-Communist literature around Asia.

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