China’s most famous—and most powerful—Catholic bishop has died. When I last saw him in 2011, I knew “Old beloved friends.” He had not seen those faces in more than six long and eventful decades.
He asked me to bring more photographs of “Catholic Shanghai before the Communists”; I do have more images to give him, but now he is perhaps seeing the real faces of his “beloved friends,” and I will file them away for posterity. Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, SJ (1916-2013), was one of the most gentle and charming people I have met, and he was also among the most enigmatic, and as I thumb through his dossier I vacillate between admiration, disagreement, speculation, and sometimes disappointment.
As I said in my 2010 interview with Bishop Jin for Ignatius Insight, with Jin there are “no easy answers.” I would like to offer a few remarks here about why Bishop Jin’s recent death, at the age of 97, is probably one of the most noteworthy events in the history of Catholicism in China.
then that age was finally catching up with Shanghai’s remarkable and indefatigable prelate. As we sat together, I handed him a pile of rare photographs of him and his fellow Jesuits, images that dated before his arrest in 1955. Pausing for some time as he looked over the first photograph, he said in a low voice,