Bishop Jin: Bible and China Catholics

Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, age 95. Photo: UBSCP/ Yeo Tan Tan.

The following is an extract from an interview with the Honorary President of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China, Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, age 95, from the Shanghai Catholic Diocese. Bishop Jin is a prominent Chinese Church leader.

God’s Word is to me like the lamp unto my feet and the bread of my life; the Bible is the illuminating lamp which guides my life.

I come from a family who has been Catholics for many generations. My grandfather and parents themselves were Catholics. I have been a Catholic even before I was weaned. Since young, I have been reading the Bible. I read it every day when I entered the monastery and the Society of Jesus. I love the Bible, especially the Gospel of John. I had memorized the whole Gospel of John, in Latin, when I was studying at the monastery. It was from memory that I was able to recite and reflect on God’s Word from John’s Gospel during my imprisonment when I had no access to the Bible.

My life has been very hectic since my appointment as a Bishop and it is a pity that I did not have that much time to read the Bible as I had in the past. But God’s precious words are always in my mind.

Catholics and their Bibles
When the missionaries came and introduced Catholicism to us a long time ago, they taught us about theology and liturgy mainly. We grew up not memorizing the Bible but rather reading the Catechism. In my opinion, this was a big flaw that we were only encouraged to read service book and understand liturgy.

It was the United Bible Societies (UBS) who encouraged us to read the Bible more often and even urged us to organize Bible classes.

Most of the Catholic believers are from the rural areas and they love to recite the rosary and read the liturgy instead of the Bible. Many of them are illiterate or semi-literate. They could only remember or read what they had memorized from young. The task ahead for us is to encourage these villagers to read and reflect more on the Bible.

Some people wonder why the Protestant church in China is growing faster than the Catholic Church. I suspect the reason behind the Protestant Church growth is because she puts more emphasis on reading the Bible. Each Protestant believer has a Bible, and each believer seeks to spread the gospel.  On the other hand, the Catholics in China tend to put more emphasis on traditions and rely on the priests to spread the gospel.

United Bible Societies
One of the first representatives from United Bible Societies who visited me was Dr I-Jin Loh. I have great respect for this man who is wise, humble and caring. When Dr Loh told us that UBS has agreed to help us print Bibles by sponsoring the Bible paper, I asked this question, “You are Protestant and we are Catholics. Why do you want to help us?”

He answered, “We are fellow Christian believers. Our responsibility is to preach the gospel and make the Bible accessible to all believers. Since we are of the same mind, why shouldn’t we be helping each other?”

Therefore, from the bottom of my heart, I say, “Thank you, thank you so much!” When we first began in the early 80s, we faced great financial difficulties. We had to go “begging” to the extent that we were almost known as the “begging faith” then. UBS was the first group to help us.

UBS did not just help us once but has been helping us consistently for the past 30 years. We hope you will continue to do so for the next 50 years, 100 years and so on.

We also need to let our congregation members know that we have a good collaboration with the Protestants and urged them to break all boundaries and diverging mindsets. Both the Protestant and Catholics are Christian believers and we should not disregard each other.

The Future
I am both pessimistic and optimistic at the same time as I think about the future. Looking at present-day China, I am saddened to see how the Chinese are only interested in money. They spare no thoughts for religion; they do not trust in God. We are living in this modern age of secularization. 90% of the Chinese in China think only about material wealth; a love for God is absent.

On the other hand, I am excited to see growth in the Christian population. My hope is for every believer to have a copy of the Bible and that they will read a passage of the Bible every day. May the Catholics cherish the Bible as much as the Protestants! Younger Catholics love to read the Bible more than the older generation. Our priests and nuns play a critical role in encouraging Catholic believers to read the Bible as most of them are greatly influenced by the priests and nuns. If a young priest were to encourage the congregation to read the Bible daily, they would definitely be more motivated in reading it.

I hope that my successor would continue to maintain a good working relationship with UBS.  I believe in mutual co-operation, which would then lead to unity.  We should always strive towards world peace. God is truly the source of peace and justice.

Interview by Jacqueline Ho
Translated by Chiong Min Lee
Edited by Pamela Choo