Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

(Vicariate Apostolic)

The present Vicariate comprises the two provinces of Kiang-su and Ngan-hwei. Its alluvial lands make it, especially Kiang-su, one of the richest and most populous countries of China. The number of inhabitants of both provinces exceeds 60,000,000. Father Matteo Ricci, S.J. , was its first missionary, introducing the Catholic religion into this country at the end of the sixteenth century. He found a powerful aid in the person of the emperor's minister, the famous academician Paul Siu Kwang-k'i, whom he met first at Kwang-tung and later at Peking. Baptized in 1603 at Nan-king, Paul Siu returned to Shang-hai, his native place, and there converted many pagans. In 1607 he took with him from Peking Father Lazzaro Cattaneo, who built a residence and a chapel still to be seen at Shanghai. Returning to Peking, he first followed the Jesuit fathers in their disgrace, was restored to favour in 1628, and died there in 1633. In 1641 his remains wee transferred to Zi-ka-wei, where they still rest, and the principal establishment of the new mission is in the vicinity his tomb. The Jesuits Franciso Brancati and Geronimo de Gravina were at this period building the churches of Sun-kiang, Su-chou, Tsong-ming; Father Sambriani, those of Nan-king, Shanking, Yang-chou, Hwai-ngan. The mission of Kiang-nan enjoyed peace from 1644 to 1661, but the missionaries were too few for the work. In 1660 the Vicariate Apostolic of Kiang-nan was created and confided to Bishop Ignazio Cotolendi of the Paris Society of Foreign Missions . During the persecutions from 1664 to 1671 twenty Jesuits were exiled to Macao, Father Verbiest in Peking obtaining their release in the latter year. After the death of K'ang-hi, Yung Chen exiled all the missionaries of the provinces; a few, however, succeeded in hiding themselves, and, helped by twelve or fifteen Chinese priests, attended to the wants of the Christians. In 1690 Alexander VIII created the Diocese of Nan-king, placing it under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Goa and with authority over the provinces of Kiang-nan and Ho-nan. The first bishop of Nan-king was Allessandro Ciceri of Milan, a Jesuit, consecrated at Macao on 2 Feb., 1696. His last successor was Gaietano Pires-Pireira, a Portuguese Lazarist (d. at Peking, 1846). After 18336 the Diocese of Nan-king was governed by Apostolic administrators until 1856, when the episcopal see was abandoned.

In 1736 the mandarins commenced a bloody persecution which lasted a whole century. At Kiang-nan Fr. Tristan of Athemis was the first priest arrested. The superior of the mission, Father Anthony Joseph Henriquez, was pursued and surrendered on 21 Dec., 1747. Both missionaries were strangled as Su-chou 17 Sept., 1748. The process of their beatification is not yet finished. Three Jesuit missionaries followed in Kiang-nan, viz., Fathers Ignatius Perez, Martin Correa, and Godefroy of Lambeckhoven, named Bishop of Nan-king on 15 May, 1752, and consecrated at Macao on 22 July, 1756. He remained thirty years at Kiang-nan with two Chinese Jesuit priests, Mark Kwan and John Yau. It is related that in 1784 Bishop Godefroy entered Su-chou as a chair-dealer to ordain some new priests. He died on 22 May, 1787, but not before sorrowfully proclaiming, as bishop, the dissolution of his own Society. Before his death he obtained the favour of re-entering the Society, yet surviving in Russia. For the next fifty years only Chinese priests conducted the Kiang-nan mission. In 1830, two Portuguese Lazarists, Fathers Maranda and Henriquez, arrived in Kiang-nan. From 1835 to 1840 Father Ferdinand Faivre and Peter Lavaissière made temporary sojourns in the mission. In reality, from 1787 to the return of the Jesuits in 1840, Kiang-nan was governed by native priests, who kept alive the Faith.

In 1833 Gaietano Peres-Pereira was made Bishop of Kiang-nan, and resided at Peking, relegating his powers to Father Henriquez, a Lazarist like himself residing at Macao. On 1 Oct., 1838, Mgr Peres, last Bishop of Nan-king, conferred the powers of vicar-general to Father Louis de Besi, named in 1841 Vicar-Apostolic of Shan-tung and administrator of the diocese of Nan-king and consecrated titular Bishop of Canopus. He arrived at Kiang-nan in 1842, and obtained some French Jesuits from Propaganda, and from Father Roothan, then General of the Society of Jesus. Fathers Gotteland, Benjamin Brueye, and François left Europe on 28 April, 1840. In 1842 a treaty between England and China resulted in the opening of five Chinese ports, among them Shanghai. Five new fathers and one brother left France for China in 1842. They made the voyage with M. de Lagrené, ambassador of France to Peking, who in 1844 obtained permission for the preaching of the Catholic religion in China. Bishop de Besi appointed Fr. Brueye to found the seminary, which was opened on 3 Feb., 1843, with twenty-three students. In 1853 it was established at Song-kia-tu. In 1849 all the Christian settlements were confided to the French Jesuits ; they contained four thousand seven hundred and fifty Christians. The rebels invaded in 1853 a great part of the province and remained there eleven years. The Jesuit Fathers established themselves in 1847 at Za-ka-wei, near the tomb of Paul Siu, at which period of the orphanages of the mission were commenced. An asylum for girls was a founded in 1855 near Wang-tan. In 1853 the Chang-mau rebels (Tai-ping) took possession of Nan-king, then of Shanghai, but abandoned the latter in 1854.

Bishop de Besi left for Rome in 1847, leaving the government of the mission to his co-adjutor, Bishop Maresca. In 1849 the latter was named administrator of the Diocese of Nan-king, but returned to Europe, owing to ill-health, on 8 April, 1855. On 13 Nov. of the same year he died at Naples. The Diocese of Nan-king was then suppressed, and the Vicariate Apostolic of Kiang-nan the entrusted to the French Jesuits. Father Pierre André Borgniet became administrator Apostolic in 1856. During the eight years of his administratorship the rebels laid waste all the Christian missions of Kiang-nan except that of Shanghai. Then followed the wars of the French and English against China, beginning in 1857. A treaty was signed in 1858, but the war was renewed in 1860, at the end of which entrance into China was obtained. In 1859 the rebels held only Nan-king, but suddenly became stronger. Father Massa was arrested by them but made his escape; his brother Louis, however, was killed by defending the orphanage of Tsai-kia-wan. The orphan asylum was pillaged and burned, and many Christians were massacred. A few Christian natives of Manila were able to defend Tung-kia-tu and Za-ka-wei. In 1862 Admirals Hope and Protet opened a campaign, but the latter as killed at Nan-kiau. Major Gordon, who commanded some four to five thousand men, gained some advantage, but was dismissed in 1866 by the Chinese. At the end of the same year the rebels were driven out of every place they had held. The missions, however, suffered much in the meantime. Father Vuillaume was killed on 4 March, 1862; between 1856 and 1864 twenty-four missionaries died, and before the close of 1865 six or seven were victims of typhus. Bishop Borgniet died of cholera on 31 July, 1862. Mgr Hippolyte Adrien Languillat, Bishop of Sergioplois and Vicar Apostolic of Chi-li since Sept., 1856, was named Vicar Apostolic of Kiang-nan on 2 Feb., 1865, and at once undertook to restore the ruins occasioned by the rebels. He went in Rome in 1867 and brought back with him religious Helpers of the Souls in Purgatory and some Carmelites. He founded the observatory about the same period, and took part in the Vatican Council in 1870, but in 1874 a stroke of apoplexy almost disabled him for any active service. The following are the statistics for the years 1865 and 1878. In 1865, 42 European priests and 12 Chinese priests, 184 missions, 71,184 Christians, and 5038 pupils in the schools ; in 1878, 56 European and 26 native priests, 585 missions, 93,310 Christians, 9135 pupils in the schools.

Father Carrére suffered much at Nan-king. Driven out of this city by Li Hung Chang, he was recalled by the consul of France from Shanghai; he died on 17 Aug., 1868. A hospital for aged men was established at Shanghai in 1867, and the St. Francis Xavier School was opened. A severe persecution broke out in 1876. In March some residences were pillaged, and a catechist massacred. On 13 July a Chinese priest was massacred with some of his students and a boy from the school. The chapel was set afire, and the bodies of the victims were consumed. The girls of the school and their teachers were taken into captivity. Everywhere the property of the Christians wee pillaged, and their chapels burned. Bishop Languillat died during this persecution, at Zi-ka-wei, on 29 Nov., 1878. Bishop Valentine Garnier, already chosen coadjutor, was named his successor; he was fifty-four years old, and governed the mission nineteen years. The accounts of his administration from 1879 to 1878 are as follows: in 1879, 50 European and 29 Chinese priests, 580 missions, 345 schools for boys with 6222 pupils, 213 schools for girls with 2791 pupils, 91,175 Christians ; in 1898, 116 European and 40 Chinese priests, 896 missions, 390 schools for boys with 10,663 pupils, 449 schools for girls with 5208 pupils, 155,177 Christians.

The fathers succeeded in establishing themselves finally in the centre of Ngan-hwei. In 1882, Bishop Garnier sent missionaries to Su-chou-fu, the most northern prefecture of the province of Kiang-su. The fathers bought a house in the city, and then commenced their difficulties, which lasted fourteen years. On 5 Feb., 1889, the European concession of Chin-kiang was attacked by the Chinese, the consulate of the United States was pillaged and burned, but the church and residence of the mission was spared. On 2 May, 1891, some of the rabble besieged the orphanage of the mission, but soldiers rescued the orphans. On 12 May, 1891, Wu-hu and then Ngan-king were attacked, but the presence of a French vessel saved them. However, five or six chapels were pillaged and burned in the interior of the province. Tranquility was restored, thanks to the presence of Admiral Besnard. Bishop Garnier died on 14 July, 1898. Bishop Simon was named Vicar Apostolic in Jan., 1899, and consecrated on 25 June; he died on 25 Aug. of the same year at Wu-hu. At the end of 1900, Bishop Paris, superior of the mission, was named Vicar Apostolic and titular Bishop of Silanda. The following was the condition of the mission in 1907: 1 bishop ; 142 Jesuits of whom 26 are Chinese; 35 native priests ; 696 churches or chapels ; one grand seminary at Zi-ka-wei with 29 students; one little seminary with 15 students; 558 schools for boys with 14,175 pupils; 604 schools for girls with 9360 pupils; two colleges for boys with 408 students; 2 colleges for European girls with 766 students (in Shanghai); 1 English school with 543 pupils; 1 French schools with 336 pupils; 6 hospitals with 3898 patients; 6 asylums for old men with 198 inmates; 37 orphanages with 6584 children; 29 Little Brothers of Mary ; 32 Carmelite nuns, 20 of whom are natives; 91 Helpers of the Souls in Purgatory, 33 of whom are natives; 31 Sisters of Charity; 9 Little Sisters of the Poor ; 173 Chinese religious; 145,219 Catholics, and 92,018 catechumens. (See China ).


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 in fifteen hardcopy 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

Newsletters

Newsletter Sign Up icon

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

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Ephesians 4:7-16
7 On each one of us God's favour has been bestowed in ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 122:1-2, 3-4, 4-5
1 [Song of Ascents Of David] I rejoiced that they ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 13:1-9
1 It was just about this time that some people ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 25th, 2014 Image

St. Daria
October 25: There is very little known about them. Chrysanthus was an ... Read More

Inform, Inspire & Ignite Logo

Find Catholic Online on Facebook and get updates right in your live feed.

Become a fan of Catholic Online on Facebook


Follow Catholic Online on Twitter and get News and Product updates.

Follow us on Twitter