‘Jesuits in China’
“Bishop Jin was a towering figure in the history of the church in China. Always gracious, ever perceptive, he will be missed by the people of China,” said Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, president of the Jesuit Conference of the United States.
In the early 1980s, the bishop, who spent almost three decades in a Chinese prison and a labor camp, made the decision to cooperate with the Chinese government, which strove to exercise control over the church through organs such as “patriotic associations,” including one for Catholics.
Jesuit Father Michael Kelly, executive director of the Asian Catholic news agency UCA News, said of his fellow Jesuit: “From the 1980s, much to the suspicion of some, the condemnation of others but the amazement of most, Jin walked the thin line between recognizing the authority of the government while sticking to what he believed was most basic and important to Catholicism in China.”
Jesuit Father Thomas Lucas, a professor of art and architecture at the University of San Francisco, had the opportunity in 2002 to collaborate with Bishop Jin on a five-year project to install 56 stained glass panels in the windows of St. Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai.
“Bishop Aloysius Jin was a remarkable man and a great Jesuit,” said Fr. Lucas. “He returned to his native Shanghai in 1951 after studies in Europe, knowing that imprisonment was the likely outcome. Incarcerated for 28 years, five years of which he spent in solitary confinement, he emerged unbroken in his faith and optimism.”
Bishop Jin, who was born in 1916 in Shanghai, was ordained a Jesuit in 1945. Two years later, he left for studies in France, Germany and Italy and earned a doctorate in theology. He returned to Shanghai and served for four years as rector of what was then known as the Xuhui Regional Seminary, later Sheshan Seminary.
He was arrested in 1955 because, he has said, he “opposed several laws of the state.” During his time in prison, he prayed and taught himself Russian. After his release, Bishop Jin was sent to northern China for almost 10 years, where he spent his time working the land and working on translations for the Chinese government.
He returned to Shanghai in 1982 to serve as rector of the Sheshan Seminary at the request of the Shanghai Diocese.
“I don’t regret coming back,” he said. “Now I can educate seminarians as previously. I can publish books. … It is important for Catholics. Now I am also in charge of church contact with foreign visitors. I can promote the mutual respect and confidence between the Chinese church and the church abroad. These things are contributions for the whole church.”
Bishop Jin was elected auxiliary of Shanghai in December 1984 and was ordained the next month, without the approval of the Vatican. He became bishop of Shanghai in 1989 but did not reconcile his status with the Vatican until early in the 21st century.
Bishop Jin also became a figure at the national level. He persuaded the authorities to allow inclusion of prayer for the pope in the Eucharistic prayers during Masses and helped to develop the liturgy in Chinese.
According to Fr. Lucas, Bishop Jin’s decision to preach the Gospel and bring the sacraments back to the people of Shanghai after the Cultural Revolution was controversial, as it meant working with — rather than against — the regime.
“Yet the decision bore great fruits for the re-evangelization of his native city,” said Fr. Lucas. “He built 15 new parishes, restored St. Ignatius Cathedral and became the beloved shepherd of a diverse community. Fully reconciled with the Holy See and the Jesuit Superior General a decade ago, Jin’s legacy of patience, endurance and practical wisdom was an inspiration to all who called him Father and friend.”
More than 1,000 people attended a funeral Mass for Bishop Jin on April 29. A government-organized memorial service is scheduled for May 2, after which his body will be cremated, according to UCA News.