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

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
News
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
News
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
television
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
art
Sport
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
football
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
fashion
News
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
news
Sport
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
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

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable