PRESS RELEASE November 12, 2014

Chinese acknowledgement about the Vincentian martyrs of the massacre of Zhengding Church

There was a remarkable openness at the conference which at the end of October took place at the Hebei Normal University in the city of Shijiazhuang in China. Experts called it a breakthrough, now that the past of the church in China was looked at with new eyes. Under the theme "Massacre of Zhengding Church and Humanitarian Rescue Efforts by Religions During the War" a large group of scholars from various countries met. The conference was organised by the Faith Institute for Cultural Studies of Hebei in Shijiazhuang, the Fudan University of Shanghai and the already mentioned university.

At the conference the Massacre of Zhengding Church took central place. On October 9, 1937, nine missionaries from five European countries were murdered in gruesome fashion in this city by the Japanese army because of their protection of Chinese refugees. During the conference they were called "little Buddhas". Their humanitarian efforts were praised during the conference. The participants of the conference agreed about the acknowledgement of the nine missionaries as martyrs for the Chinese people.

One Chinese professor reacted: "I did not want to believe this story until I heard the facts this time". The participants agreed about a re-evaluation of the role of missionaries and their efforts of humanitarian help for the Chinese people. One professor literally said: " Our view of missionaries has been based on wrong information. We should no longer consider missionaries as imperialists".

At the conference a plea was made to destine the former residence of the Dutch martyr bishop Frans Schraven as cultural heritage. The former residence is today military terrain and thanks to that fact the former cathedral and the Japanese monument for the victims have been preserved for many years. During his visit to this place a Chinese professor made a plea to return the former cathedral to the church. He was impressed by the beauty of the building, when he declared before all those present: "This is the most beautiful church in the whole of Hebei Province".

During the conference a plea was also made for a speedy acknowledgement by Rome of these missionaries as martyrs.

At the closing of the conference words of thanks were spoken towards the Chinese authorities, that in all openness words could be spoken about these "international friends of the Chinese people". According to insiders the consent to this conference pointed to a sympathetic gesture towards the catholic church. At this time China waits for a gesture from Rome and according to participants at the conference the acknowledgement of bishop Schraven and his companion martyrs would be a very apt answer.

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