Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

Papal legate to India and China, cardinal, born of a noble Savoyard family at Turin, 21 December, 1668; died in confinement at Macao, 8 June, 1710. After graduating in canon and civil law he went to Rome where he gained the esteem of Clement XI, who on 5 December, 1701, appointed him legate a latere to India and China. The purpose of this legation was: to establish harmony among the missionaries there; to provide for the needs of these extensive missions; to report to the Holy See on the general state of the missions, and the labours of the missionaries; and, finally, to enforce the decision of the Holy Office against the further toleration of the so-called Chinese rites among the native Christians. These rites consisted chiefly in offering sacrifices to Confucius and the ancestors, and in using the Chinese names tien ( heaven ) and xang ti (supreme emperor) for the God of the Christians. On 27 December, 1701, the pope consecrated Tournon bishop in the Vatican Basilica, with the title of Patriarch of Antioch.

The legate left Europe on the royal French vessel Murepas, 9 February, 1703, arriving at Pondicherry in India on 6 November, 1703. It was with greater zeal than prudence that he issued a decree at this place, dated 23 June, 1704, summarily forbidding the missionaries under severe censures to permit the further practice of the Malabar rites. On 11 July, 1704, he set sail for China by way of the Philippine Islands, arriving at Macao in China, 2 April, and at Peking on 4 December, 1705. Emperor Kang hi received him kindly at first, but upon hearing that he came to abolish the Chinese rites among the native Christians, he demanded from all missionaries on pain of immediate expulsion a promise to retain these rites. At Rome the Holy Office had meanwhile decided against the rites on 20 November, 1704, and, being acquainted with this decision, the legate issued a decree at Nanking on 25 January, 1707, obliging the missionaries under pain of excommunication latae sententiae to abolish these rites. Hereupon, the emperor ordered Tournon to be imprisoned at Macao and sent some Jesuit missionaries to Rome to protest against the decree. Tournon died in his prison, shortly after being informed that he had been created cardinal on 1 August, 1707. Upon the announcement of his death at Rome, Clement XI highly praised him for his courage and loyalty to the Holy See and ordered the Holy Office to issue a Decree (25 September, 1710) approving the acts of the legate. Tournon's remains were brought to Rome by his successor, Mezzabarba, and buried in the church of the Propaganda, 27 September, 1723.

More Encyclopedia

The Catholic Encyclopedia is the most comprehensive resource on Catholic teaching, history, and information ever gathered in all of human history. This easy-to-search online version was originally printed between 1907 and 1912 in fifteen hard copy volumes.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Designed to present its readers with the full body of Catholic teaching, the Encyclopedia contains not only precise statements of what the Church has defined, but also an impartial record of different views of acknowledged authority on all disputed questions, national, political or factional. In the determination of the truth the most recent and acknowledged scientific methods are employed, and the results of the latest research in theology, philosophy, history, apologetics, archaeology, and other sciences are given careful consideration.

No one who is interested in human history, past and present, can ignore the Catholic Church, either as an institution which has been the central figure in the civilized world for nearly two thousand years, decisively affecting its destinies, religious, literary, scientific, social and political, or as an existing power whose influence and activity extend to every part of the globe. In the past century the Church has grown both extensively and intensively among English-speaking peoples. Their living interests demand that they should have the means of informing themselves about this vast institution, which, whether they are Catholics or not, affects their fortunes and their destiny.

Copyright © Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company New York, NY. Volume 1: 1907; Volume 2: 1907; Volume 3: 1908; Volume 4: 1908; Volume 5: 1909; Volume 6: 1909; Volume 7: 1910; Volume 8: 1910; Volume 9: 1910; Volume 10: 1911; Volume 11: - 1911; Volume 12: - 1911; Volume 13: - 1912; Volume 14: 1912; Volume 15: 1912

Catholic Online Catholic Encyclopedia Digital version Compiled and Copyright © Catholic Online


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

the FEED
by Catholic Online

  • BIGGER THAN ISIS - There's a hidden power behind ISIS and it's so big ...
  • The Miracle Prayer HD Video
  • St. John Berchmans: Saint of the Day for Thursday, November 26, 2015
  • Daily Readings for Thursday, November 26, 2015
  • UPDATE: Did the U.S. military actually know they were bombing the ...
  • Prayer For Courage HD Video
  • Your Daily Inspirational Meme: Thanksgiving blessings

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Daniel 6:12-28
12 These men came along in a body and found Daniel praying and pleading ... Read More

Psalm, Daniel 3:68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74
68 Bless the Lord, dew and snow-storm, praise and glorify him for ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 21:20-28
20 'When you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then you must realise ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for November 26th, 2015 Image

St. John Berchmans
November 26: Eldest son of a shoemaker, John was born at ... Read More