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The bible in Chinese is 
more than a book

From its beginning, the Church has had the tradition of proclaiming saints and blesseds. It is a declaration by the Holy See that the person lived a life of noble virtue and can be looked up to as an exemplary model of the Christian life.

Father Gabriele Allegra, a Sicilian Franciscan, became the first person, who lived a significant part of his life in Hong Kong, to be beatified on September 29.

In collaboration with his Franciscan peers, he was the founder of Studium Biblicum in Hong Kong and more than anyone else is responsible for the first complete Catholic edition of the bible in Chinese.

Angelo Cardinal Amato, the prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Causes of Saints, presided over the beatification ceremony for Father Allegro in his hometown. It was received with great joy by Catholic Chinese communities worldwide, as they are deeply indebted to Father Allegra and all those involved in the publication of the Chinese-language bible for expressing the word of God in their own language.

Father Allegra committed his whole life to the service of the Church in China. He was a figure of convergence of two great civilisations and brought a biblical background into Chinese culture through his translation work.

Although not the first complete bible to be produced in Chinese, it is the first to have been translated from original languages.

The translation of the Old and New Testaments were published after Vatican II and fit well with the emphasis the council placed on the indigenisation of the faith, paving the way for a deeper understanding of God and his revelation in the Chinese world.

His beatification was originally scheduled for 2002. However, it was delayed in the wake Beijing’s wrath over the choice of October 1 for the canonisation of the Chinese martyrs in 2000 and because he had been criticised by China for the anti-communist literature he worked on in Singapore in the 1960s.

Nevertheless, since the Church in China is a persecuted Church, the feast of the martyrs is significant in terms of service of the oppressed, the abandoned and the poor. The saints, by their words, deeds and witness to the faith, bring value to the dignity of human life, while becoming models of morality to the public at large.

After more than 10 years, the Church must realise that martyrs and saints do not only live in the past, but their lives have meaning in the modern world. Today, many local Churches in mainland China are struggling to survive under state harassment and internal division. 

However, experience shows that wherever the saints and martyrs have given witness with their lives and deaths, loyalty towards Jesus Christ is strengthened.

In a society permeated by a culture of death, it is upsetting to see abortion, infanticide, suppression, exploitation, infringement of basic human rights and violation of the freedom of religion and belief. However, the saints and martyrs bring life and hope. They encourage people to cherish the gifts bestowed by God and to sacrifice to protect them.

People like Father Allegra and the Chinese martyrs are part of the history of the Church in China. They have fostered a spirit of the gospel within Chinese culture. SE