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Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and the Martyrs of China

This feast day commemorates 120 saints (87 Chinese Catholics and 33 Western Missionaries) from the 1600s until 1930 who were martyred for their faith.

The story of these martyrs starts on January 15th, 1648, when Manchu Tatars invaded the region of Fujian. The invaders captured a Dominican priest by the name of Francisco Fernandez de Capillas and began to torture him. Ultimately he was beheaded while reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary and the Vatican recognizes him as the protomartyr of China. Another wave of persecution broke out in 1724 when Christianity was officially banned. In 1746 the Yongzheng Emperor and his successor the Qianlong Emperor launched a particularly terrible wave of persecution with five Catholics formally recognized as being martyrs during the persecution:

  • Saint Peter Sanz O.P., Bishop (May 26th, 1747 in Fuzhou)

  • Saint Francis Serrano, O.P., vicar apostolic and bishop-elect (October 28th, 1748)

  • Saint Joachim Royo, O.P., priest (October 28th, 1748)

  • Saint John Alcober, O.P., priest (October 28th, 1748)

  • Saint Francis Diaz, O.P., priest (October 28th, 1748)

After a small period of formal authorization by Chinese emperors, the Jiaqing Emperor published several decrees in 1805 1811 and 1813. The 1813 decree exonerated any voluntary apostate from chastisement but promised terrible punishments for any who refused to recant their faith. During this time, many were executed included

  • Peter Wu, a lay catechist who was baptized in 1796 and was strangled to death for refusing to recant on November 7th, 1814

  • Joseph Zhang Dapeng, a lay catechist imprisoned and strangled on march 12, 1815 for refusing to recant

The persecution exploded in 1815 when Monsignor Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Missions Society was ordered to be headed. In this period many more were recognized as martyrs:

  • Ausgustine Zhao Rong, priest - Saint Augustine Zhao Rong was a professional soldier for the Emperor who had been assigned to care for a French priest visiting China. The Priest's holiness so moved Saint Augustine that he converted to Catholicism and entered into the seminary. He was ordained and and arrested quickly after his ordination where he languished in jail facing daily tortures. He would eventually die in prison for his faith.

  • John da Triora , O.F.M., priest

  • Joseph Yuan, Cheinese priest who was moved so greatly after hearing the Monsignor priest that he became ordained and dedicated his life to evangelization

  • Paul Liu Hanzuo, Chinese priest

  • Francis Regis Clet, Vincentians; was betrayed by a Chinese Christian and tortured in prison before being strangled to death

  • Thaddeus Liu, a Chinese priest executed after refusing to recant

  • Peter Liu, Chinese lay catechist who was exiled in 1814, when he returned in 1834 he was executed

  • Joachim Ho, Chinese lay catechist. Arrested and exiled, he was arrested and executed with a write of execution signed by the emperor

  • John Gabriel Perboyre, C.M., member of the Vincentians; was strangled to death in 1840 in Hubei by a resurgence of anti-Christian persecutions there

  • Augustus Chapdelaine, M.E.P., priest who was tortured and condemned to death in 1856

  • Lawrence Bai Xiaoman, Chinese layman who refused to recant and was beheaded in 1856

  • Agnes Cao Guiying, widow who was executed in 1856

There were three catechists known as the Martyrs of Maokou who were killed on january 28th, 1858

  • Jerome Lu Tingmei

  • Laurence Wang Bing

  • Agatha Lin

On July 28th, 1861, two seminarians, a farmer and widow were martyred for refusing to recant their faith and are known as the martyrs of Qingyanzhen:

  • Joseph Zhang Wenlan, seminarian

  • Paul Chen Changpin]], seminarian

  • John Baptist Luo Tingyin]], layman

  • Martha Wang Luo Mande]], laywoman

A year later, five more were executed on February 18th and 19th and are known as the Martyrs of Guizhou

  • Jean-Pierre Néel, a priest of the Paris Foreign Missions Society,

  • Martin Wu Xuesheng, lay catechist,

  • John Zhang Tianshen, lay catechist,

  • John Chen Xianheng, lay catechist,

  • Lucy Yi Zhenmei, lay catechist.

The so called Boxer rebellion would bring Anti-Christian persecutions back into mainstream Chinese thought as Christianity was placed alongside Western imperialism. '

Known as the Martyrs of Shanxi, these Franciscans were martyred in an event known as the Taiyuan massacre on July 9th, 1900:

  • Gregorio Grassi, bishop

  • Francis Fogolla, bishop

  • Elias Facchini , priest

  • Théodoric Balat , priest

  • Andrew Bauer , religious brother

Martyrs of Southern Hunan, also Franciscans

  • Anthony Fantosati , bishop (martyred on July 7, 1900)

  • Joseph Mary Gambaro priest (martyred on July 7, 1900)

  • Cesidio Giacomantonio , priest (martyred on July 4, 1900)

Seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary:

  • Mary Hermina of Jesus (in saeculo: Irma Grivot)

  • Marie de la Paix Giuliani (in saeculo: Mary Ann Giuliani)

  • Maria Chiara Nanetti (in saeculo: Clelia Nanetti)

  • Marie of Saint Natalie (in saeculo: Joan Mary Kerguin)

  • Marie of Saint Just (in saeculo: Ann Moreau)

  • Marie-Adolphine (in saeculo: Ann Dierk)

  • Mary Amandina (in saeculo: Paula Jeuris)

Eleven Secular Franciscans:

  • John Zhang Huan, seminarian

  • Patrick Dong Bodi, seminarian

  • John Wang Rui, seminarian

  • Philip Zhang Zhihe, seminarian

  • John Zhang Jingguang, seminarian

  • Thomas Shen Jihe, layman and a manservant

  • Simon Qin Chunfu, lay catechist

  • Peter Wu Anbang, layman

  • Francis Zhang Rong, layman and a farmer

  • Matthew Feng De, layman and neophyte

  • Peter Zhang Banniu, layman and laborer

Three Chinese faithful:

  • James Yan Guodong, farmer

  • James Zhao Quanxin, manservant

  • Peter Wang Erman, cook

When the Boxer rebellion reached Hebei, the Jesuits caring for the Apostolic Vicariate of Xianxian faced an incredibly terrible persecution. Thousands of Christians were killed in the region. In one particularly terrible event, four French Jesuits and at least 52 lay Christians that included men women and young children were killed in the church in Zhujahe village in July of 1900

The group at large was beatified on November 24th, 1946 by Pope Pius XII and canonized on October 1st, 2000 by Saint Pope John Paul II. Their optional memorial is celebrated on July 9th.

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