POPE Francis is the best known Jesuit today. He’s the first member of the Society of Jesus, organized by Saints Ignatius of Loyola, Francis Xavier
and companions in 1542, to sit on Peter’s chair. Many Filipinos hope
that when he visits South Korea this year, he’ll make a side trip here
to meet Yolanda victims.
The news item on a lesserknown Jesuit appeared last week in the inside pages of a few papers: Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang, of Shanghai, a leader of China’s underground Catholic community, died March 15. He
He refused to recognize the Chinese government-controlled Catholic Patriotic Association. So, he served in prison with other priests, who were arrested in 1955, during a government crackdown.
From 1958 to 1978, Fan was imprisoned in Qinghai Province.
There, his work included carrying corpses to the cemetery, reports Ucanews.
China claims it has 23 million Christians, 11 million of them Catholics. “The real number is somewhere between 60 to 130 million”, the Economist estimates.
Shanghai refused permission that the funeral mass be held at St Ignatius Cathedral.
Instead, it limited rites for Bishop Fan to an open courtyard at the funeral home.
Chinese Catholics are divided between two communities. One group refuses to “render to Ceasar the things that are God’s”’ and therefore, driven underground.
The Vatican accepts the other, with some compromises, to continue
its existence. Both stand with the pope. Both face persecution from
Chinese authorities, as have other Christian denominations.
“The more persecution, the more the church grows,” said Protestant Pastor Samuel Lamb in 1993. He died in 2013, age 88.
His 20 years of jail and forced labor followed an earlier two-year
sentence. Some 30,000 people attended his memorial service. Police
constantly pressured Lamb to comply with official doctrine and
register with the government. He always refused, as did Joseph Fan.
“China strictly regulates the religious activities of Uighur Muslims,”
the latest US State Department report on religious freedom notes.
“…It harassed or detained Catholic clergy not affiliated with the government Catholic Patriotic Association... Some 83 Tibetan monks, nuns, and laypersons increasingly sought to express despair and dissent by selfimmolating in 2012.”
Fan was baptized a Catholic in 1932, joined the Society of Jesus in 1938. He was named Shanghai bishop by John Paul II in 2000. But the Communist Party refused to recognize him. Ceasar rendered to itself what belonged to God.
Security police arrested Fan repeatedly and ransacked his flat. In 1992, the accounts of the entire Shanghai underground church were closed down. His intended successor was Thaddeus Ma Daqin, but he too was taken into custody in 2012 after he quit the government association.
Filipinos know the Jesuits from the schools they’ve established, their missions in Mindanao and scientific work. The 18th century Philippine map was drawn up by Jesuit Pedro Murillo Velarde. Jose Rizal is the most known alumnus of Ateneo.
Padre Faura St. is named after the astronomer who established Manila
Observatory. Work on Philippine typhoons by Miguel Selga, SJ, forms
the bedrock for today’s weathermen.
And historian Horacio de la Costa became the first superior of the society in the Philippines.
As elsewhere, Jesuit critics abound.
“According to ancient lore, the wind and the devil were walking
together one day. Then, the devil suddenly disappeared into the
Gesu which is the Jesuit church in Rome. The devil has not come out
again. And the wind is still waiting outside.”