The Death of China’s Most Famous & Powerful Bishop | Anthony E. Clark, Ph.D. | Catholic World Report
The enigmatic Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, SJ of Shanghai described himself as “both a serpent and a dove.”
China’s most famous—and most powerful—Catholic bishop has died. When I last saw him in 2011, I knew then that age was finally catching up with Shanghai’s remarkable and indefatigable prelate. As we sat together, I handed him a pile of rare photographs of him and his fellow Jesuits, images that dated before his arrest in 1955. Pausing for some time as he looked over the first photograph, he said in a low voice, “Old beloved friends.” He had not seen those faces in more than six long and eventful decades. He asked me to bring more photographs of “Catholic Shanghai before the Communists”; I do have more images to give him, but now he is perhaps seeing the real faces of his “beloved friends,” and I will file them away for posterity. Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, SJ (1916-2013), was one of the most gentle and charming people I have met, and he was also among the most enigmatic, and as I thumb through his dossier I vacillate between admiration, disagreement, speculation, and sometimes disappointment. As I said in my 2010 interview with Bishop Jin for Ignatius Insight, with Jin there are “no easy answers.” I would like to offer a few remarks here about why Bishop Jin’s recent death, at the age of 97, is probably one of the most noteworthy events in the history of Catholicism in China.
Jin Luxian lived through China’s most dramatic changes and growing pains as it transitioned from empire to the largest and most paradoxical Communist country in the history of our world. He witnessed China’s war with Japan (1930s); the fierce and tragic war between his own countrymen, the Nationalists and Communists (1920s-1949); the rise of Mao Zedong and Maoism in 1949; the turbulent 100 Flowers Movement (1956) and the following Anti-Rightist Campaign (1957-1958); the Great Leap Forward and the millions of deaths it caused (1958-1961); the cruel violence of the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976); the post-Mao economic boom inaugurated by Deng Xiaoping (1989-present). This long list of China’s landmark events does not include equally dramatic events in Catholic history, such as the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Because he was a Jesuit priest who had earned his doctorate in theology from the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome, Jin was labeled a “dangerous counterrevolutionary” in alliance with an “imperialist power,” the Vatican. Jin Luxian’s life provides historians extraordinary access to some of the world’s most exceptional moments of transformation, and if you ask China’s Catholics who has been the most influential figure in their Church’s remarkable survival and seemingly-impossible growth through their country’s painful birth as a Communist superpower, they will, to the person, reply, “Bishop Jin.”