Auguste Chapdelaine

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Saint Auguste Chapdelaine
Auguste Chapdelaine.jpg
Auguste Chapdelaine. Martyred in China in 1856.
Catholic Martyr
Born 6 January 1814
Died 29 February 1856
Canonized 1 October 2000 by John-Paul II

Father Auguste Chapdelaine (Chinese name: Ma Lai 馬賴) (February 6, 1814 – February 29, 1856) was a French Christian missionary of the Paris Foreign Missions Society.

Biography[edit]

He was born in La Rochelle-Normande, France. He left France in 1852 to join the Catholic mission in the Guangxi province of China.

After a stay in Guangzhou, he moved to Guiyang, capital of the Guizhou province, in the spring of 1854. In December, he went, together with Lu Tingmei, to Yaoshan village, Xilin County of Guangxi, where he met the local Catholic community of around 300 people. He celebrated his first mass there on December 8, 1854. He was arrested and thrown into the Xilin county prison ten days after his arrival, and was released after sixteen or eighteen days of captivity.

Following personal threats, he went back to Guizhou in early 1855, and came back to Guangxi in December of the same year. He was denounced on February 22, 1856, by Bai San, a relative of a new convert, while the local tribunal was on holiday. He was arrested in Yaoshan, together with other Chinese Catholics, by orders of Zhang Mingfeng, the new local mandarin on February 25, 1856. He was severely beaten and locked into a small iron cage, which was hung at the gate of the jail. He was already dead when he was beheaded.

Diplomacy[edit]

Martyrdom of Auguste Chapdelaine.

His death was reported by the head of the French missions in Hong Kong on July 12. The chargé d'affaires, de Courcy, in Macao learned of the murder on July 17 and filed a vigorous protest on July 25 to the Chinese Imperial Viceroy Ye Mingchen.

La captivité de M. Chapdelaine, les tortures qu'il a subies, sa mort cruelle, les violences qu'on a faites à son cadavre, constituent, noble Commissaire Impérial, une flagrante et odieuse violation des engagements solennels qu'il a consacrés. Votre Gouvernement doit donc une éclatante réparation à la France . Vous n'hésiterez pas à me l'accorder pleine et entière. C'est à V. E. qu'il appartient naturellement d'en proposer les termes; j'aurai à décider ensuite si l'honneur, la dignité et les interêts du Gouvernement de mon grand Empereur me permettent de les accepter. Mon désir serait d'ailleurs de me rendre à Canton et d'en conférer de vive voix avec V. E. Elle n'ignore pas qu'une heure de conversations amicales avance plus quelquefois la solution des affaires importantes qu'un mois de correspondances écrites[1]

On July 30 he sent a report to the French foreign office of the murder:

Si, en un mot, le Représentant de S. M. Impériale ne manquerait pas à ses devoirs en ne profitant pas de l'occasion qui lui est offerte, pour réparer d'un seul coup, les erreurs ou les fautes du passé, et pour faire sortir du martyre d'un missionnaire le complet affranchissement du Christianisme.[2]

The viceroy responded to de Courcy by pointing out that Father Chapdelaine had already violated Chinese law by preaching Christianity in the interior (the 1844 treaty signed with France only permitted for the propagation of Christianity in the 5 treaty ports opened to the French), he also claimed that the priest was in a rebel territory and that many of his converts had already been arrested for acts of treason, and the viceroy further claimed that Father Chapdelaine's mission had nothing in common with the propagation of religion.[3]

Under French diplomatic pressure, the mandarin who ordered his death was later demoted. When Britain went to war with China in the same year (commencing the Second Opium War (1856–1860)), France initially declared its neutrality but de Courcy made it known that French sympathy was with the English due to the Chapdelaine incident.[4]

In 1857, de Bourboulon, the French plenipotentiary arrived in Hong Kong and attempted to negotiate reparations for the murder of Father Chapdelaine and to revise the treaty. He failed to reach an agreement with Yeh.[5]

Talks continued into December of that year. Viceroy Yeh on 14 December stated that he had received a report that the person who was killed was a member of the Triad society with a similar Chinese name to Father Chapdelaine was executed as a rebel in March, and that this was not the same person as Father Chapdelaine. He also complained that in the past many French citizens had gone into the interior to preach, and he cited the case of six missionaries who had been arrested and were handed over to French custody.[6]

The French embassy found Yeh's reply to be evasive, derisory and a formal refusal of French demands. French military action began soon afterwards.

The Opium War[edit]

The French empire had many times suffered the death of missionaries for which no military vengeance occurred. The political situation wherein Britain's victory was seen as inevitable and the French desire to make its own imperial gains in China, alongside the fact that the French did not have a policy elsewhere of punitive military expeditions to avenge the death of missionaries, has led many historians to conclude that the death of Father Chapdelaine was merely an excuse used in order to declare war so that France could build its empire [7][8][9]

Lord Elgin, the British High Commissioner for China commented on the French ultimatum given prior to France's entry to the war:

Gros [the French ambassador] showed me a projet de note when I called on him some days ago. It is very long and very well written. The fact is, that he has had a much better case of quarrel than we; at least one that lends itself much better to rhetoric.[10]

The Chinese version of article 6 in the Sino-French Peking Convention, signed at the end of the war, gave Christians the right to spread their faith in China and to French missionaries to hold property.

Recognition and controversy[edit]

August Chapdelaine was beatified in 1900[citation needed]. He was canonized on October 1, 2000, by Pope John Paul II, together with 120 Christian martyrs who had died in China between the 17th and 20th century[citation needed].

On October 3, 2000, Xinhua News Agency reacted to the canonisation by issuing a press release, painting a very negative portrait of Father Chapdelaine.[11]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  2. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  3. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  4. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  5. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  6. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  7. ^ Religion Under Socialism in China by Zhufeng Luo, Chu-feng Lo, Luo Zhufeng p.42: "France started the second Opium War under the pretext of the "Father Chapdelaine Incident." [1]
  8. ^ Taiwan in Modern Times by Paul Kwang Tsien Sih p.105: "The two incidents that eventually caused a war were the Arrow incident and the murder of the French Catholic priest, Abbe Auguste Chapdelaine"
  9. ^ A History of Christian Missions in China p.273 by Kenneth Scott Latourette: "A casus belli was found in an unfortunate incident which had occurred before the Arrow affair, the judicial murder of a French priest, Auguste Chapdelaine" [2]
  10. ^ Huang Yen-Yu. Viceroy Yeh Ming-Ch'en and The Canton Episode (1856-1861): 4. The Canton Episode. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies. Vol. 6, No. 1, Mar., 1941
  11. ^ True Colors of "Saints" Exposed (2 Oct 2000), Xinhua News Agency

External links[edit]