ASIA/CHINA - The first Apostolic Prefecture entrusted to the Chinese clergy celebrates its 100th anniversary

Tuesday, 2 January 2024 mission   evangelization   local churches   inculturation  

Puqi (Agenzia Fides) - A hundred years ago, thanks to the persistent efforts of Archbishop Celso Costantini, the first Apostolic Delegate to China, the Apostolic Prefecture of Puqi in Hubei Province was founded with the document Quo christiani of Pope Pius XI, entirely entrusted to the local Chinese clergy. The establishment of the prefecture dates back to December 12, 1923. The Franciscan Father Odorico Cheng Hede, OFM (July 22, 1873 - November 13, 1928), one of the first six Chinese bishops appointed by Pope Pius on October 28, 1926 in St. Peter's Basilica, was the first bishop of the Apostolic Prefecture, which was consecrated on May 10, 1951 with the bull "Qui Universum" by Pope Pius XII, suffragan of the archdiocese of Hankou.
In December 2023, the diocese celebrated the 100th anniversary of China's first apostolic prefecture, highlighting the path traveled and the prefecture's pioneering role in the field of inculturation for the proclamation of the Gospel. More than 150 believers attended the mass on December 12, presided over by Father Gu Wei along with three diocesan priests. Father Gu called on everyone present to appreciate the experiences of the Diocese of Puqi in the historic process of supporting the church's mission. He invited everyone to promote the proclamation of the Gospel in a form adapted to the Chinese context and to draw inspiration from previous generations of Catholic missionaries. The founding of the Puqi Apostolic Prefecture is of great importance for the history of the church in China: it was the first ecclesiastical jurisdiction to be completely administered by Chinese clergy. 100 years ago, the Apostolic Delegate Costantini (as he himself writes in his memoirs) not only had to take into account the economic poverty of the region, but also encountered resistance from foreign missionaries who considered it inappropriate and premature to give the leadership of the dioceses to the local clergy.
Currently, the local Catholic community carries out pastoral and apostolic work (liturgical celebrations, administration of the sacraments, catechism, spiritual retreats, works of charity) also thanks to the help of the sisters of the diocesan Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (founded on the Feast of the Sacred Heart in 2003, on the occasion of the 80th anniversary of the Puqi Apostolic Prefecture). The diocese also organizes sacred music concerts, Marian processions and cultural initiatives for the younger generation. (NZ) (Agenzia Fides, 2/1/2024)