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July 9th Feast of Chinese Martyrs & Saint Augustine Zhao

The story of the Chinese Martyrs illustrates why China’s biggest threat is not the United States or Russia but Christianity in general and Pope Francis in particular

The Universal Church commemorates the feast of St Zhao Rong and Companions, also k own as Chinese Martyrs, on July 9 every year.

The Chinese Martyrs is the name given to a number of members of the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church who were killed in China during the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are venerated as martyrs. Most were Chinese laypersons, but others were clergy from various other countries; many of them died during the Boxer Rebellion.

The Boxer Rebellion was an uprising against foreigners that occurred in China about 1900, not unlike the Tokugawa shoguns’ Christian suppression 300 years earlier. While the Boxer Rebellion begun by peasants, it was eventually supported by the government. A Chinese secret society known as the Boxers embarked on a violent campaign to drive all foreigners from China. 

In Japan. Tokugawa shoguns eradicated Christianity via murder, persecution and decrees. In 1638, an estimated 37,000 people, mostly Christians were massacred after the Christian-led Shimabara Rebellion – In 1637, the Christian Amakusa Shirō led a peasants’ revolt, the Shimabara Rebellion, which caused Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shōgun, to strengthen the prohibition of Christianity and to largely close Japan to the West. In 50 years, the crackdown policies of the shoguns reduced the number of Christians to near zero.

The  group of Chinese Martyrs ( 120 martyrs,)   died between 1648 and 1930. Eighty-seven of them were born in China, and were children, parents, catechists, or laborers, ranging in age from nine years to 72. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The 33 foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or wome74,000n religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Parihs Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Society of Jesus, Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians), and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

The story of the Chinese Martyrs illustrate why China’s biggest threat is not the United States or Russia but Christianity in general and Pope Francis in particular.   Simple math:  There are over 2.6 billion Christians in the world but only 1.4 billion Chinese

 Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse of the Paris Foreign Mission Society to his martyrdom in Beijing. Saint Augustine Zhao-Rong named Zhu, was born in 1746 in Wu Chuan, Guizhou Province. When he was nearly 20, while serving as a sergeant in Wu Chuan County, he encountered Christianity during its introduction from Sichuan.When the persecution of Christianity began in 1748 during the reign of the Qianlong Emperor, many Christians were arrested, including a priest called Father Mei. Zhu Rong was moved by the teaching of Father Mei, and Zhu Rong quickly embraced Christianity and deepened his understanding of the faith. In 1752, on St Augustine’s feast day, Father Mei baptized and confirmed Zhu Rong, giving him the name Augustine. Recognising Zhu Rong’s strong faith, Father Mei entrusted him with various tasks, teaching him Latin and encouraging the study of books about the saints.

Impressed by Zhu Rong’s loyalty and enthusiasm, another priest, Father Lou, sought his assistance. Recognising his outstanding faith, Father Lou appealed to the bishop for Zhu Rong’s ordination as a priest. At the age of 35, Zhu Rong became a priest, adopting the surname Zhao and so from then on was called Zhao Rong.   Later, the bishop assigned him to care for all Catholics in the three counties of Guan Xian, Jin Tang, and Wen Jiang in western Sichuan Province. Zhao Rong tirelessly taught, zealously preached, devotedly fulfilled his duties, and heard confessions with care. In the 1815, during the reign of the Jia Qing, as Christian persecution began again, Father Yang urged him to leave the region, but being old and frail, Zhao Rong explained his inability to escape. He asked Father Yang to pray for his perseverance, courage, and steadfastness. 

When a thug questioned Zhao Rong about his belief in Catholicism. Zhao Rong replied that he not only believed in the Catholic Church, but that he also was a leader in the Church. He was reported to state officers, leading to his arrest and subsequent transfer to Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. In prison, Zhao Rong endured various forms of abuse and torture.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized together in Rome on October 1, 2000.

Prayer to the Martyrs Saint Augustine Zhao and companions

O God, who in your wonderful providence have strengthened your Church through the confession of the Martyrs Saint Augustine Zhao and companions, grant that your people, faithful to the mission entrusted to it, may enjoy ever greater freedom and witness to the truth before the world.

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