Preface to The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau by Prof. Chen Fang-chung

Restructuring the Face of the Catholic Central Bureau

Preface to The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau: National Catalyst for Cultural Apostolate in China (1947-1951)

Chen Fang-chung

Professor of History, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Fu Jen Catholic University


A chronological glance at the history of Catholicism in China reveals a great paucity of research on the period closest to our present day, post-1949, mostly because of barriers that made religious issues, including their history, a taboo topic under the rule of the Chinese Communist Party. Access to internal Party historical material remains a restraint on researchers in constructing an accurate narrative. It is also difficult to publish articles under both official censorship and the self-censorship of Chinese journals. This situation has worsened in recent years, because the Beijing government has tightened its grip on Christianity.

In addition, the history of Chinese Catholicism is a difficult subject of study. Although there were not many Catholic converts, amounting to only around four million up to 1949, a large number of missionary congregations set foot in China. These religious orders or missionary societies came from European countries and northern America, and their archival documents are in their own languages and stored in their own archives. Their languages include English, Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Latin, the lingua franca of the Catholic Church. It was often the language of choice for documents and correspondence. Therefore, researchers must master at least one second language to effectively research even one small area or short period. Moreover, the archives of these religious orders and congregations or ecclesiastical communities are not always accessible. The gradual weakening and decline of the modern church, its past connection with imperialist colonial activities, or the missionary congregations’ own reluctance to expose historical facts that could bring themselves into disrepute entice the gatekeepers of these archives towards caution in allowing access to treasure-hunting researchers.

Under such difficult circumstances, Miss Bibiana Wong came to Taiwan from Hong Kong to study in the doctoral programme of Religious Studies at Fu Jen Catholic University. With great diligence and conscientiousness, she spent six years completing this work, The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau: National Catalyst for Cultural Apostolate in China (1947-1951). The establishment of the CCB in post-war China was quite an innovative initiative with two specific points worthy of note. Firstly, it was a national body directed by the Apostolic Internuncio with significance to the on-going effort of the Holy See to transform the self-centeredness of European and American missions into something more consistent with the values of the universal church. Secondly, it brought together elite personnel from various religious congregations and missionary societies, as well as native diocesan clergy, becoming a center of cooperation between Chinese and foreign priests. This signified a complete reversal of the trend among the clergy separating Chinese and foreign members in the process of indigenizing the Catholic Church in China, as after all, it is ideal that the clergy should not be divided by nationality.

Dr. Wong’s position on the Catholic Central Bureau is clear: it is a cultural organization of the church. Why was there a need for such an institution in the Chinese Catholic Church? It was related to the nature of the church in China, which, since the fall of the Qing Dynasty, had put the bulk of its energy and resources into expansionist missionary activity to the neglect of apostolates concerning local culture. The church had little positive interaction with mainstream society and mostly found its abode on its fringes. New converts were mostly found among the socially disadvantaged. Society had little knowledge about the church, to the extent that it arrived at extremely awkward misunderstandings. Theories of anarchism and communism seeping into Chinese society in the early Republican years represented yet another dynamic militating against Christianity, as the Catholic Church had difficulty separating itself from imperialism and some Catholics even held feelings of complacency over their elevated status. If these abnormal and irrational trends continued, any attempt on behalf of the church to make itself acceptable to a pluralistic society would have become an unattainable illusion. To reverse this undesirable state, the church needed an educated laity with a more sophisticated understanding of the relationship between religion and culture in order for Catholicism to make any cultural impact of significance on local society. This in turn demanded a radically revised approach to its evangelization methods. The laity would need to be organized in a systematic outreach towards their own small social circles and be courageous in their encounter with mainstream society. However, the chosen method was the Legion of Mary, which differed subtly from the more traditional Catholic Action, an association with a strong lay leadership structure that had existed since the early twentieth century. Its primacy was replaced after the war by the Legion of Mary, which while lay by its nature, is very much a priest-led association.

The CCB attempted to reform the church in its own way, and involve itself in a dialogue with mainstream society. It did not dabble in politics and was purely an ecclesiastical organization. Nevertheless, it was strongly suppressed by the Chinese Communist authorities, mainly because of misunderstandings and the long-standing confrontation between the two entities. The Communist Party considered Catholicism to be a European and American imperialist movement involved in aggression against the Chinese state. While such a perception was not entirely accurate, it was not unreasonable either. However, the perception that the Legion of Mary was a kind of quasi-militarized organization seeking to confront the Chinese Communist Party was over exaggeration. As mentioned above, the CCB was not a political organization. The Catholic Church’s basic opposition to the Communist Party sprang from its atheistic position and the consistent persecution of local Catholic missions it had conducted across China since 1945, when it began to clamp a firm control on the country. Therefore, from a party point of view, a centralized body aimed at uniting the splintered mission effort and representing the universal church in China had to be crushed as a matter of necessity. Consequently, as the party was preparing to take control of the Chinese Catholic Church, it cooked up charges against it. These intentional or unintentional accusations against the CCB, which have been repeatedly fabricated by the Communist propaganda apparatus, have now become a historical source for researchers and form the basis for Chinese and foreign researchers’ own accounts. Dr. Wong’s book is a valuable contribution to dispelling these myths and avoiding an accumulation of falsehood.

Between 2016 and 2019, Dr. Wong has collected data from various archives around the world, sometimes by taking the opportunity of attending conferences, sometimes by applying for grants from research institutes, and sometimes even by spending her own hard-earned savings. Most of these archives opened their doors to her because she is a baptized Catholic and because of her sensitivity and responsiveness accumulated through her journalistic background. When she traveled to the United States to search for information, she visited the Maryknoll Mission Archives, as well as the archdiocesan archives of New York and of Cincinnati. On two occasions she visited the archives of missionary societies in Leuven and Brussels to read material and take photographs after she presented a paper at a conference in Leuven, Belgium, and while a visiting researcher at the Monumenta Serica of the Society of the Divine Word in Sankt Augustin, Germany. To find out about the Society of St. Columban’s involvement in the CCB, she went to its Central Archive in Ireland and was told by the archivist that no one had ever opened the dossiers she was looking at. Of course, she would not have overlooked the Jesuit archives in Taipei or the diocesan archives in Hong Kong. In 2019, she went to Shanghai, China, to collect data from the Shanghai Municipal Archives, where a limited amount of material concerning the Catholic Church after 1949 had been opened to researchers. Her doctoral dissertation was written with the backing of these sources and will definitely catch the eye of experts and general readers alike. In my opinion, it is the first masterpiece among any recent research on the history of Chinese Catholicism.

The book is highly readable. Through Dr. Wong’s lively descriptions, readers can comprehend the efforts of the Chinese Catholic Church at that time, and the remarkable deeds of some clergymen. On the other hand, we can see the limits of the church and its participants, as well as its structural inadequacies. Perhaps readers will share my own regret: the Chinese Communist Party has misunderstood Catholicism, and has indeed overestimated the gambit within which the Catholic Central Bureau operated.


The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau:

National Catalyst for Cultural Apostolate in China (1947-1951)


作者:Bibiana Yee-ying WONG 黃懿縈

Hardcover: 335 pages   Language: English   ISBN: 978-957-29848-7-1



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The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau:

National Catalyst for Cultural Apostolate in China (1947-1951)


作者:Bibiana Yee-ying WONG 黃懿縈

Hardcover: 335 pages   Language: English   ISBN: 978-957-29848-7-1


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利氏學社出版品 《曇花一現:天主教教務協進委員會與中國文化傳教事業(1947-1951)》

The Short-lived Catholic Central Bureau:

National Catalyst for Cultural Apostolate in China (1947-1951)


作者:Bibiana Yee-ying WONG 黃懿縈

Hardcover: 335 pages   Language: English   ISBN: 978-957-29848-7-1


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This book may be called a groundbreaking work of research into the historical event of the Shanghai Catholic Central Bureau (CCB), which was an ecclesiastical executive organ set up by the Apostolic Internuncio after the establishment of Sino-Vatican diplomatic relations and the Catholic Hierarchy in post-war China. Besides coordinating missionary activities of nearly 140 dioceses administered by various religious congregations, it promoted a cultural apostolate with the use of modern communication media to guide people in the understanding of the Catholic faith and advise missionary work in the face of anti-religious propaganda by materialists. It also trained the laity through the Legion of Mary to sustain Catholic communities when the clergy was barred from its ministries. Eventually, the CCB could not establish its endeavor due to the Communist ban. Key members of the Bureau were arrested, expelled or died early in prison. Despite its vivid historical role of the CCB in Shanghai, this book also investigates its two “heirs” in Taipei and Singapore to organize the apostolate to the Chinese in diaspora.



Keywords: Chinese Catholicism, communism and Christianity, Legion of Mary, state-church relations, Three-Self Movement



Preface by Prof. Chen Fang-chung, click here to read


About the Author

Bibiana Yee-Ying Wong is a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute of Modern History, Academia Sinica in Taiwan. She received her Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Fu Jen Catholic University in 2020. Her research interest is in the history of Chinese Catholicism in the twentieth century. While working as a journalist for two Catholic news organizations in Hong Kong from 2002 to 2013, she obtained Master’s degrees in Journalism and in Religious Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong.



Table of Contents


1 A Zigzag Path to Uniformity

– Historical overview of missionary cooperation before the CCB –

Regional synods in China during late Qing period

New missionary strategy and directives

Celso Costantini and Primum Concilium Sinense

Synodal Commission on Schools, Books and Press

Catholic Action movement and Mario Zanin

2 “The Dizziest Place” in Shanghai

– Creation and organization of the Catholic Central Bureau–

Establishment of the Chinese Catholic Hierarchy

Reorganization of Synodal Commissions by Antonio Riberi

The Catholic Central Bureau in its initial stage

Christianization of China through cultural apostolate

3 Creative Propagators of the Faith

– Five foreign missionaries in the CCB and their work–

François X. Legrand and publication work

Jan Joos and Catholic radio activities

Jozef Vos, Correspondence Courses and his books

Patrick O’Connor and Hua Ming News Service

Aedan W. McGrath and the Legion of Mary

4 Talented Defenders of the Church

– Five Chinese priests in the CCB and their life’s witness –

Matthew Chen, courageous scholar and writer    

Joseph Shen, organizer and martyr of the Legion

John Dong and his apologetic speech  

John B. Gao and the national congress on Catholic education

John Mao and his fight for the Overseas Student Service

 5 Three-Self Reforms and the CCB

– The origin and course of state-church friction –

Opposition between Catholic and Communist ideologies

Religious policy of Chinese Communists

The Three-Self Reform Movement

The CCB’s three responding documents

 6 A Tool of the Imperialist Riberi”

– Ban on the CCB and the Legion of Mary –

The first arrest: François Théry

Suspension of the CCB and press attack

Mass arrest of the CCB directors

Crackdown on the Legion of Mary

Tragic death of Jozef Vos

Imprisonment of McGrath and Legrand

7 Aftermath and Continuation

– The CCB’s final days in Shanghai and reestablishment after 1952 –

The CCB chapel and playground

The fate of Bishop James E. Walsh

Riberi restored the CCB in Taiwan

The Singapore Catholic Central Bureau





利氏學社出版品 《詮釋三角:漢學、比較經學與跨文化神學的形成與互動》



[法]魏明德 (B. VERMANDER) 著

謝華、沈秀臻、魯進、陳文飛 譯


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ISBN978-957-29848-8-8      精裝.中文:367




In its First Part (chapters 1 to 5), this book offers an interpretation of the way 16th-18th centuries Jesuits followed by the first generations of Sinologists dealt with Chinese Classics in their efforts to build a body of knowledge about China, on the one hand, and a theological outlook consistent with their evolving understanding of the country’s thought and history, on the other. 

The Second Part (chapters 6 to 10) reflects upon this long episode of intellectual history in the light of (a) the Gadamerian reading of the Classics, (b) changes and permanence observed in the Chinese religious landscape, and finally, (c) the issues raised by the nascent field of “Comparative Theology” in Asian context.






因其跨學科的性質本書的工作也承擔著風險。在論及歷史的部分,我必須回顧一些歷史學家所熟知的事實,因為它們對那些主要關注詮釋學或神學的人來並非常識。本書第二部分則恰好相反。我或許可以進一步展開對當代亞洲神學的一些見解,但我更願意僅僅選擇那些與漢學和比較經學直接相關的因素進行討論。我在緒論與導言中對這些必要的選擇作了明,也解釋了「詮釋三角」triangle herméneutique這一可能令人感到驚奇的表達,具有什麼意義。可以指出的是,我並非想要單純傳遞一些「資訊」,而是意圖捍衛一個論題;因此,對某些看似基礎性的知識,例如利瑪竇對其傳教方法的構想,或者伽達默爾在《真理與方法》中辯護的論題,本書也不吝筆墨,以期能為我們的詮釋之路設立路標。













第一部分  耶穌會、漢學與比較經學的形成

第一章  漢學的產生、發展與挑戰





第二章  地圖與地盤






第三章  傳教士的福傳使命與漢學考察







第四章  耶穌會第二次在華傳教1842-1949








第五章  比較性展望:學術漢學的發展












第二部分  從現代比較經學到當代跨文化神學

第六章  詮釋學與比較經學的未來






第七章  如何閱讀中國經典











第八章  宗教對話與亞洲語境





第九章  智慧與啟示的相遇









第十章  跨文化神學的「應無所住」













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利氏學社 新書



Tien Educational Center during Cold War Taiwan: An Oasis of Intellectual Freedom under Authoritarian Regime

丁立偉 (Olivier Lardinois SJ) 著  ‧  謝靜雯 譯


定價200元 (精裝.81P)   ISBN 978-957-29848-6-4


自從一九六○年代初期,一棟四層樓的長型灰色建築就矗立於臺北市的羅斯福路與辛亥路交叉口:由耶穌會負責運作的耕莘文教院,英文簡稱為TEC (Tien Educational Center)。附近的臺灣大學和臺灣師範大學學生現在鮮少有人知道,在一九六三年到一九八○年代晚期之間,耕莘文教院是中華民國流亡首都裡,並未完全屈從於國民黨威權意識形態嚴格管控的少數幾個文化機構之一。

本書的研究分成五個部分:(一) 一九六三年至一九九二年間,臺灣的政治與文化脈絡。(二) 耶穌會決定在臺北開辦耕莘文教院的原因。(三) 冷戰時期耕莘文教院所舉辦的各種活動,這些活動為何吸引數百名基督徒與非基督徒學子。(四) 什麼因素讓耕莘文教院的耶穌會士在國民黨的威權統治下,得已享受相對的自由。(五) 針對臺灣於一九八七年結束戒嚴、臺灣政權慢慢民主化期間,耕莘文教院參與轉型正義運動的相關報告。


At the intersection of Roosevelt and Hsinhai roads of Taipei City, lies a large four story grey concrete building from the early 1960s: the Jesuit-run Tien Educational Center 「耕莘文教院」or TEC. Few students from the nearby National Taiwan University (NTU) and National Taiwan Normal University (NTNU) today are aware that between 1963 and the late 1980s, TEC was one of the few cultural institutions in the Republic of China's (ROC) "capital in exile", which was not fully submitted to the then strict ideological control of the KMT authoritarian regime.

This study is divided into five parts: 1) Taiwan's political and cultural context between 1963 and 1992; 2) the reasons why the Jesuits decided to open TEC in Taipei; 3) the various activities held at TEC during the Cold War and why those activities attracted hundreds of Christian and non-Christian students; 4) the factors which gave the Jesuits running the TEC relative freedom despite the authoritarian regime of the KMT; 5) a report on the involvement of TEC in the movement of transitional justice that followed the end of Taiwan's martial law in 1987 and slowly led to the democratization of Taiwan's political regime.