Ending Civil Patronage: The Beginning of a New Era for the Catholic Missions in China, 1926

  • Sergio Ticozzi


One of the most important events for the Catholic Church in China, though it passed rather unnoticed, was the publication, on June 15, 1926, of Pope Pius XI’s1 apostolic letter Ab Ipsis Pontificatus Primordiis (“Since the Beginning of the Pontificate”).2 It was addressed to “all the Apostolic Vicars and Prefects working in China, against some deceiving opinions among people toward the missionary work of the Church.”


French Government Religious Believer Local Church Latin Text Civil Government 
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  1. 7.
    Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christian Missions in China (New York: Russell & Russell, 1967), p. 694.Google Scholar
  2. 8.
    After this event, some Catholic professors of Beijing National University sent a message to Pope Pius XI asking for his support in protecting the rights of Chinese people. On June 16, the Apostolic Delegate Costantini received a telegram, requiring him to invite those professors and assure them of the concern of the Holy Father. Consequently, when the Protestant General Feng Yuxiang issued a message to all Christians in the world complaining about their silence, one of the Catholic professors made public the initiative of the Pope. Celso Costantini, Con i missionari in Cina, vol. I (Rome: Unione missionaria del Clero, 1946), pp. 233–234.Google Scholar
  3. 9.
    “As far as the nature of this Civil Patronage is concerned, it is enough to mention that there are two schools of thought, the ‘royalists’ who believe that it was a secular and therefore inherent in the temporal sovereignty of the king, and the ‘canonists’, who consider it not secular but spiritual, founded only of pontifical concessions which were rescindable and non transferable: The pontifical concession of the Patronato de Indias to the kings of Spain was a simple, juridical, unilateral act, produced motu proprio. There were no concordats, contracts, or decrees but only direct concession from the Holy See.” Faustino Legon, Doctrina y Ejercicio del Patronato Nacional (Buenos Aires: J. Lajouane, 1920), p. 186.Google Scholar
  4. 18.
    H. M. Cole, “Origins of the French Protectorate over Catholic Missions in China,” American Society of International Law vol. 34, no. 3 (July 1940), pp. 473–491. &sid=21102049841393 (accessed March 19, 2014).CrossRefGoogle Scholar

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© Cindy Yik-yi Chu 2014

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  • Sergio Ticozzi

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