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"China Needs Priests"


When Father Ye Yaomin, a Catholic priest, returned to his parish in Foshan, Guangdong province in 1980 following years of persecution, his friends urged him to emigrate.

“China needs priests,” he replied.

Father Ye died last month, at the age of 105. Here’s how UCA News reported on his death:

China’s oldest priest, Father Ye Yaomin of Guangzhou, died on Tuesday at the age of 105, bringing to an end to an epic life that spanned the fall of emperors, wars and a Communist Party intolerant of his devout faith.

In good health until his final weeks, Father Ye had recently declined hospital care and food in the apparent knowledge his time was close, said Sister Chen Jianyin, who had cared for him for more than two decades.

“He told us that the Church is his home and he has to die in his home,” she said.

The elderly priest passed away in the early hours of Tuesday after parishioners took him back to the Immaculate Conception Church in his hometown of Foshan, Guangdong province.

On February 7, AP reported that another priest who has been in detention for 14 years has died in prison at the age of 94:

A secretly appointed Roman Catholic bishop detained by China for the past 14 years due to its feud over authority with the Vatican has died at age 94, a Roman Catholic website said Friday.

Chinese officials informed the family of Bishop Cosmas Shi Enxiang on Jan. 30 that he had died, but didn't say when or provide his relatives a cause of death, ucanews.com reported.

Shi was ordained in 1947, two years before officially atheistic China was founded. Shortly afterward, Chinese leader Mao Zedong demanded Chinese Catholics sever their links with the Vatican, churches were closed and, like scores of priests,

Shi suffered long terms of imprisonment and hard labor between 1957 and 1980.

The Vatican secretly appointed Shi as bishop of the northern city of Yixian in 1982, but he was taken away again in 2001 and held at an undisclosed location.

While ChinaSource tends to focus on the practice and experience of Protestant Christians in China, the theme of our most recent ChinaSource Quarterly was Catholicism. Writing in the introduction to the Quarterly, ChinaSource President Brent Fulton writes:

Our exploration into Catholic life in China is ecumenical in the true sense of acknowledging the differences between the Protestant and Catholic Christian traditions while at the same time being open to learning about and engaging with the uniting work of the Holy Spirit as experienced in the Catholic tradition. Our guest editor for this issue, Tricia Bølle, occupies a unique role in this process as she serves both Catholic and Protestant believers in Asia and has experience interacting with many Christian faith communities. Her vantage point affords a view into the journey of China’s Catholics that Protestants working in China normally have limited opportunity to observe, but which is important in understanding the many ways in which God is working in China today.

In addition to Brent’s opening editorial, the Quarterly contains the following articles:

The Legacy of Catholicism

Finding Faith and Purpose

Experiencing World Youth Day as a Chinese Catholic

A Place to Grow in Faith: The Challenge of Developing Faith Formation Programs in China

The Catholic Church in China and Evangelism Through Social Media

My Experience with Chinese Sisters

Book Review: Church Militant: Bishop Kung and Catholic Resistance in Communist Shanghai

If you’re interested in getting a feel for Catholicism in China today, this edition of the Quarterly is an excellent starting point. 

Image Credit: Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman

Joann Pittman is senior vice president of ChinaSource and editor of ZGBriefs. Prior to joining ChinaSource, Joann spent 28 years working in China, as an English teacher, language student, program director, and cross-cultural trainer for organizations and businesses engaged in China. She has also taught Chinese at the University... View Full Bio