Bishop Matthias Duan Yinmin

Matthias Duan Yinmin, priest: born Mutewehe, China 19 February 1908; ordained priest 1937; Bishop of Wanxian 1949-2001; died Wanxian, China 10 January 2001.



Matthias Duan Yinmin, priest: born Mutewehe, China 19 February 1908; ordained priest 1937; Bishop of Wanxian 1949-2001; died Wanxian, China 10 January 2001.



Bishop Matthias Duan Yinmin, the last Roman Catholic bishop in China publicly appointed by the Vatican before the Communist takeover, led his diocese of Wanxian in Sichuan Province for more than half a century, a remarkable stint made all the more extraordinary by the difficult conditions the Church had to endure under Communist rule.

Duan trod a fine line between loyalty to the Pope and to the regime. Although reportedly never a member of the government-sponsored Catholic Patriotic Association, which rejects ties to the Vatican, he was allowed to function openly in the government-approved church as a bishop - except during his years of re-education during the Cultural Revolution. He also retained the support of the Vatican, continuing to be listed in the Vatican yearbook, the Annuario Pontificio. Nearly all the other Chinese bishops loyal to the Vatican remain underground, and authorities frequently detain and imprison the underground church's bishops, priests and lay people.

Duan was born into a Catholic family near Wanxian, 800 miles south-west of Beijing, deciding early on that he wanted to become a priest. He studied theology at the Pontifical Urban University in Rome, where he was ordained in March 1937. Returning to China the following year he was appointed rector of Wanxian seminary. Pope Pius XII named him bishop of Wanxian in June 1949, four months before the Communists declared the founding of the People's Republic in Beijing, and he was consecrated on 18 October, just two months before Wanxian fell under Communist control.

The new Communist regime severed ties with the Vatican in 1951, expelled foreign clergy and set up a government-controlled Catholic Church in the 1950s to eliminate the Vatican's influence.

Duan was sent to work on cotton plantations and factories from 1954 to 1966, followed by seven years of forced labour in re-education camps during the Cultural Revolution. When Red Guards, the Cultural Revolution's fanatical shock troops, hauled a statue of the Virgin Mary out of Duan's cathedral and ordered him to destroy it in front of his parishioners, Duan refused. "You can take off my head, but not my faith!" he told them.

Freed from labour camp in 1973, he was forced to undergo further re-education until 1979, when he was allowed to return to his diocese.

In deference to Duan's status as the oldest resident bishop in China, Pope John Paul II invited him and his auxiliary Bishop Joseph Xu Zhixuan to the 1998 synod of Asian bishops at the Vatican. But Beijing, citing the lack of official ties between China and the Vatican, refused to give them passports and rebuked the Pope for the "unilateral and arbitrary" invitation, a decision Duan at the time said caused him several sleepless nights. Duan decried the "political motives" behind the ban in a message written in Latin and faxed to the Pope which was read aloud at the meeting. "The body is absent, but the heart is always present at the synod of bishops."

During his ministry Duan consecrated eight bishops, mostly from Sichuan Province, and participated in the consecration of a further six. Interviewed by foreign Catholic publications in later years, he was increasingly - but politely - outspoken, attacking many of the central tenets of Chinese policy towards the Catholic Church. He stressed his "profound fidelity" to the Pope, a brave move in view of official hostility to John Paul II. "I pray for the Pope every day, for his mission, for his health and to ask that the Holy Spirit sustain his service to humanity."

He added that he prayed constantly for a papal visit to his country.

By Felix Corley

Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
News
people'When I see people who look totally different, it brings me back to that time in my life'
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
news
News
people

Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'

Arts and Entertainment
A photograph taken by David Redferm of Sonny Rollins
people
News
news

Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'

Extras
indybest
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker