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|Saint Gregory Grassi, O.F.M.|
|Religious, Bishop and Martyr|
|Born||13 December 1833
Castellazzo Bormida, Piedmont, Italy
|Died||9 July 1900
Taiyuan, Shanxi, China
|Venerated in||Roman Catholic Church|
|Beatified||27 November 1946 by Pope Pius XII|
|Canonized||1 October 2000 by Pope John Paul II|
Saint Gregory Mary Grassi, O.F.M., (in Italian language Gregorio Maria Grassi) (13 December 1833 – 9 July 1900) was an Italian Franciscan friar and bishop who is honored as a Roman Catholic martyr and saint.
Early life and mission
At the age of 15, on 2 November 1848, he took the Franciscan habit in the Friary of Montiano, Romagna, with the name Gregory. His solemn profession was made one year later, on 14 December. He was then sent to Bologna to do his seminary studies, and was ordained priest on 17 August 1856.
In 1876 he was chosen as the Coadjutor Vicar Apostolic for the Apostolic Vicariate of Shansi. After he assumed authority over the Apostolic Vicariate of Northern Shansi on 6 September 1891, he established a novitiate to provide access to Franciscan life for the Chinese of all four vicariates in Shanxi and a rest home for overworked missionaries.
He also dealt with the suffering of the local population brought on by plague and famine, which led him to enlarge the orphanage in the city and establish several others, in order to cope with the orphans left behind by these catastrophes.
When the short but bloody Boxer Rebellion broke out in Peking in June 1900 and the Empress Dowager Cixi issued the Imperial Decree of declaration of war against foreign powers, Grassi was urged to flee. He responded, "Ever since I was twelve, I have desired and also asked God for martyrdom. Now that this longed-for hour has come, must I run away?"
At the beginning of July, the Governor of Shanxi, Yuxian, ordered the arrest of the European missionaries in the province. On 4 July a mob attacked the Franciscan mission in Hengyang (southern Hunan), murdering one of the friars, Cesidio Giacomantonio, and burning the mission to the ground. A few days later, on 7 July, the friar who served as Apostolic Vicar of Southern Hunan, bishop Antonio Fantosati, and his companion, Friar Giuseppe Maria Gambario, were attacked while returning to the mission in Hengyang. Both were killed.
Grassi was one of a dozen European missionaries who were arrested in Taiyuan, four other friars and seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, and 11 Chinese members of the Third Order of St. Francis—of whom six were seminarians—as well as three employees of the mission. They were all mutilated and kept in iron cages on public display, then marched through the surrounding villages. They were returned to Taiyuan on 8 July. The next day, 9 July, the entire group was beheaded by the Governor (known as the Taiyuan Massacre).
Throughout China during the Boxer Uprising, 5 bishops, 50 priests, 2 brothers, 15 sisters and 40,000 Chinese Christians were killed.
The 146,575 Catholics served by the Franciscans in China in 1906 had grown to 303,760 by 1924 and were served by 282 Franciscans and 174 local priests.
References and further reading
- Clark, Anthony E. (2011). China's Saints: Catholic Martyrdom During the Qing (1644-1911). Bethlehem PA; Lanham, Md.: Lehigh University Press; Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781611460162.