By late 1949, when the Communists won their civil war against the Nationalists, there were 139 archbishops and bishops on the mainland of China, of whom 26 were native Chinese and 113 were foreign missionaries (15 Americans and 98 of various European nationalities).

The Communist victory did not, at first, have much affect on the ethnic Chinese clergy.

Instead the new government initially directed its interests towards expelling or imprisoning the many European and American missionaries.

Between the end of 1949 and the first months of 1952, the Vatican was even able to increase the number of dioceses on the mainland of China from 139 to 144, and to name, and have consecrated, 18 (some say 22) additional bishops, all but one of them ethnic Chinese.



Appointment Date

Installation Date

Installation Place


Consecration Date
of the New Bishop

Bishop Installed


Vital Statistics

24 February 1930

Wang Wen-cheng Paul

in Si-chuan

2 August 1931

Zhou Ji-shi Joseph

in Jiang-xi

21 September 1936

Yu Bin Paul

in Jiang-su

28 March 1938

Zhao Zhen-sheng Francis Xavier, SJ

in He-bei

29 October 1939

Tian Geng-xin Thomas, SVD

in He-bei


Appointment Date

Consecration Date

Consecration Place

Principal Consecrator


Bishop Consecrated


Vital Statistics

7 March 1948

Cardinal Tian Geng-xin Thomas, SVD

Wang Mu-to Peter

Bishop of Suan-hwa in xxxx


Deng Ji-zhou Paul


Duan Yin-ming Matthias


Gong Pin-mei Ignatius


Pi Shu-shi Ignatius

17 May 1951


Li Dao-nan Joseph

31 May 1950


Zhou Wei-dao Anthony

1 October 1950


Deng Yi-ming Dominic

17 May 1951


Yi Xuan-hua Francis

12 April 1951


Fan Xue-yan Peter Joseph

18 April 1950


Han Ting-bi Francis


Lei Zhen-xia Simon

10 May 1951


Li Bo-yu Alois

19 August 1951


Wang Xue-ming Francis

3 November 1949


Zhang Ke-xing Melchior

14 June 1951


Zong Huai-mo Alphonsus

14 February 1952


Wan Ci-zhang Joseph

13 December 1951


Li Huan-de Pacificus


never consecrated

Yang Guang-qi Humilis

Click here to see this same chart arranged alphabetically by the bishops' surnames.

Click here to see this same chart arranged geographically by the bishops' dioceses/vicariates.


In the long run, though, the Communist victory placed all of the Christians in China, especially the Roman Catholics, in a very precarious position. Especially during the Korean Conflict, when the Communist Government was very hostile towards any entity with any foreign connections.

By the mid-1950s, all of the missionary bishops had either been expelled from the country or imprisoned.

The Communists then turned their attention to the ethnic Chinese Christians, and particularly towards their bishops.

In September 1955 a large number of Chinese priests and bishops were arrested, the best known of them being Msgr. Kung Pin-mei (Gong Pin-mei) Ignatius, who had since 1950 been Bishop of Shang-hai in Kiang-su (Jiang-su) Province.

The Church in China soon faced a threat of destruction as terrible as any in the Ninth or Fourteenth Centuries.

Following the arrest of Bishop Kung there was born the idea of an "independent" Catholic hierarchy in China.

After the arrests, in September 1955, of Bishop Kung and of his two vicars general, the clergy of the Shang-hai Diocese became so concerned over their having no episcopal oversight that they elected as their leader an elderly priest named Fr. Chang Shih-lang (Zhang Shi-lang). They sent a telegram to the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith in the Rome (the Vatican dicastery which in those days had jurisdiction over the Chinese hierarchy) asking for the Papal Mandate for his consecration. The Congregation, however, replied negatively to the request, emphasing its position that bishops are only to be chosen by the Holy See.

The idea of having Chinese electing the bishops for China, though, did not go unnoticed by the Chinese government.

In May 1956, the Communists implemented the "let a hundred flowers bloom" capaign, during which the Party encouraged the Chinese population to express freely their opinions of the Party and its policies.

Four of those Chinese bishops then still at liberty (Msgr. P'i Shu-shih (Pi Shu-shi) Ignatius, the Archbishop of Mukden (Shen-yang) in Liao-ning (Liao-ning) Province of Manchuria; Msgr. I Hsüan-hua (Yi Xuan-hua) Francis, the Bishop of Hsiang-yang (Xiang-yang) in Hu-pei (Hu-bei) Province; Msgr. Wang Wen-ch'eng (Wang Wen-cheng) Paul, the Bishop of Shun-king (Nan-chong) in Sze-chwan (Si-chuan) Province; and Msgr. Li Po-yü (Li Bo-yu) Alois, the Bishop of Chow-chi (Zhou-zhi) in Shen-si (Shaan-xi) Province) took seriously the government's invitation to express their opinions and travelled to Pei-ching (Bei-jing) to meet with Chou En-lai (Zhou En-lai) and other government officials. No improvement in the Church's situation resulted, though.

By early 1958, with most of even the ethnic Chinese bishops having either fled the country or been imprisoned, the Government demanded that the Church in China sever all its ties with foreigners.

The situation by then was so acute that by 1958 fully 120 of the 144 dioceses in mainland China had no functioning bishop. The 24 bishops still trying to govern their dioceses were all caught between a rock and a hard place. The Revolutionary Government applied intense pressure to make them subservient to the program of the Communist Party, and the Vatican just as intransigently was demanding from them opposition to atheistic Communism.

The first prominant Chinese cleric known to start cooperating with the Communists was Fr. Li Wei-kuang (Li Wei-guang), the Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Nan-ching [Nan-jing] in Kiang-su [Jiang-su] Province.

His archbishop, Msgr. Yü Pin (Yi Bin) Paul, had in the late 1940s fled (first to Hong Kong, then to America, and lastly to Tai-wan ). In Bishop Yü's absence, Fr. Li, being Vicar General, had become the acting head of the Nan-ching archdiocese.

For reasons unknown, he chose to support publicly the Government's expulsion, in 1951, of the Apostolic Inter-nuncio to China, Archbishop Antonio Riberi. For this action, Fr. Li was - by name - excommunicated by Pope Pius XII in February 1952. (He remains the only Chinese yet to have been excommunicated - by name - in this whole sad story)

By the late 1950s, though, Fr. Li was far from being the only Chinese Catholic cleric collaborating (either freely or under coercion) with the new Government.

In July 1957 a newly formed Chinese Catholics' Patriotic Association held its first general assembly. The meeting was attended by 241 Catholics, allegedly including 10 bishops and over 200 priests.

Archbishop P'i Shu-shih (Pi Shu-shi) Ignatius of Mukden in Manchuria was elected the Association's chairman. And the following were chosen as its eight Vice-Chairmen:

At this assembly several delegates proposed that the Church in China henceforth elect its own bishops, without any involvement from the Vatican.

The attending Chinese bishops, however, tried to deflect this suggestion and even managed to send to the Vatican a message recounting their dire circumstances and pleading for prayers and understanding of their situation.

On December 16, 1957, the Communists, frustrated by the stalling by the Patriotic Association on the issue, by-passed both the Association and the hierarchy, by encouraging a council of priests and laity for just the Diocese of Cheng-tu [Cheng-du] in Szu-ch'uan [Si-chuan] Province to hold a meeting.

This council met and promptly elected Fr. Li Hsi-t'ing (Li Xi-ting) John to be their Bishop.

Yet before anyone could be found to consecrate this Fr. Li, a similar gathering occurred in Hu-pei [Hu-bei] Province on March 21, 1958, and elected two other Chinese priests, Fr. Tong Kuang-ch'ing (Dong Guang-qing) Bernardine , O.F.M., and Fr. Yüan Wen-hua (Yuan Wen-hua) Mark, O.F.M., to be the bishops of Han-k'ou (Han-kou) and Wu-ch'ang (Wu-chang).

On April 13, 1958, in the Han-k'ou (Han-kou) Cathedral, Fr. Tong and Fr. Yüan were both consecrated as China's first "independent" bishops. The consecrator was the Roman Catholic Bishop of P'u-ch'i [Pu-qi] in Hu-pei [Hu-bei] Province, Msgr. Li Tao-nan (Li Dao-nan) Joseph. (Bishop Li had all along been the member of the Chinese episcopate maintaining the best terms with the Government).

Between April 20 and July 20 of 1958, in seven different ceremonies, 13 more Chinese priests (including the Fr. Li Hsi-t'ing (Li Xi-ting) John mentioned above) were consecrated "patriotic" bishops for 6 Chinese dioceses. All lacked the Papal mandate.

In the following four years, an additional 36 "independent" bishops were consecrated.

By 1962, there were - functioning legally on the Chinese mainland - a total of 62 Catholic bishops, all of them either members of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association or, at least, not in open opposition to it: 20 of these had been consecrated prior to 1953, with the approval of Rome, but the other 42 had all been consecrated since 1957, without the Vatican's approval.

Between 1962 to 1979, however, there were no further consecrations of any "patriotic" bishops. The terrible Chinese Cultural Revelution raged during the first seven of those years and all religions in China were severely repressed.

At the start of the 1980s, however, with domestic order restored following the death of Mao Tse-tung (Mao Ze-dong) in 1976, the surviving "patriotic" bishops began a remarkable come-back. And there were scores of new consecrations.

As a result, by the end of 1999, 133 so-called "Patriotic bishops" are known to have been consecrated in China without the Papal mandate.

They trace their apostolic succession from those ten Roman Catholic bishops of China in office at the time the Communist took over mainland China who acted as the principal consecrators, or as the co-consecrators, for the bishops of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.


Click here for a Summary of Patriotic Bishops



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