Lou Tseng-Tsiang, A Lover of His Church and of His Country
Translated by Purple Kwong
Lou Tseng-Tsiang (1871-1949) was a renowned diplomat, who was born to a Protestant family in Shanghai. His father was a catechist for a Protestant pastor. Lou Tseng-Tsiang began his education in a private village school, then studied at a language school in Shanghai, and then entered the Tongwenguan, the school for interpreters in Beijing. With his proficiency in both Russian and French, Lou became a diplomat. I will not elaborate on Lou’s life as a diplomat, but the one point I would like to mention here is that while he was a diplomat in Russia, he met and fell in love with a Belgian lady Miss Berthe-Francoise-Eug?nie Bovy, and they eventually got married. Eleven years after their marriage, Lou quietly converted from Protestantism to Roman Catholicism. In his memoirs he said:
“My conversion was not a conversion of repentance. I was not affected by any external factor, nor was it my personal plan…. My conversion was a vocation. God led me; He called me. The part I played was simple. I only had to see clearly the external reality and situation, and reflect on the vocation that God had showered upon me with His grace. At the same time, I also realized that in order to respond to this call that was so obvious and had lasted for such a long time…. I could not but became a Catholic.
Before the death of his wife Berthe, Lou, who had already become a Catholic, agreed with her that when she passed away, he would enter the monastery. His wife passed away in April 1926. Lou Tseng-Tsiang buried his wife in Brussels in May 1927, and in July of that year he entered the Abbey of Saint Andr?-les-Bruges in Belgium, which belonged to the Order of St. Benedict. He lived a monastic life there almost all the time until his death in 1949. It was only during the Second World War, when the German soldiers forced the monks to leave the monastery that Lou lived for a period of time in a civilian home. Lou was an authentic Benedictine monk.
Lou Tseng-Tsiang abandoned his secular life after he entered the monastery, but he was still concerned about China. We can clearly see this from his correspondence with Father Stanislaus Lo Kuang. Lo Kuang began his contact with Lou Tseng-Tsiang in 1936, when as a newly ordained young priest, he was teaching in the Pontifical Urbaniana University. Lo Kuang was eager to see the normalization of Sino-Vatican relations, and so the diplomatic background and the connections of Lou Tseng-Tsiang naturally appealed to him. They had similar backgrounds, both being Chinese residing overseas. Thus they became close friends despite the difference in their ages, and they wrote to each other quite frequently. Lo Kuang cherished the correspondence with Lou Tseng-Tsiang, and when he compiled the Complete Works of Lo Kuang 《羅光全書》, all his correspondence with Lou Tseng-Tsiang was collected in one volume. The Catholic Heritage Museum of Fu Jen Catholic University has collected a considerable amount of material on Lou Tseng-Tsiang, consisting mostly of the original letters Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote to Lo Kuang from 1939 to 1948. The citations I use here are from these materials, especially those that reflect the patriotism of Lou while he lived a monastic life.
“My heart ached to read in the newspapers these days about the critical situation in China. Our country is facing successive crises, and the concerned departments have to find solutions in the midst of extreme hardship. I recall that in 1895, when our late premier was in captivity in the embassy in London, no one could save him, and it was only through prayer that he was eventually saved. Since my ordination as priest on June 29 last year, I have been offering Mass at 6 o'clock in the morning. I have been praying fervently for the leaders of our nation. Even at ordinary times I pray earnestly to God, hoping that in times of imminent danger we will have our Lord’s blessing and protection.”
This letter of December 17, 1936 was the second letter Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote to Lo Kuang. The pressing situation Lou mentioned in the letter could refer to the “Xi’an Incident”. Lou’s concern is clearly evident in the letter. On October 5, 1938, Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote again to Lo Kuang, saying:
“I just received, by air mail, a treatise ‘To all Chinese Catholics of the Nation,’ written by Bishop Paul Yu Ye-Sheng. I read it with great admiration…. Can you kindly translate it and have it published in L’OsservatoreRomano. This essay is far-sighted. Only Bishop Yu is able to convey the essence of the Pope’s Message and his love for China. If only you could translate it into Italian, then other people would have the chance to see the vision of Bishop Yu.”
This letter was sent a year after the war against Japanese aggression. By that time Paul Yu Pin had returned to China after traveling to Europe and America seeking relief for refugees. The year 1938 commemorated the 10th anniversary of the Pope’s August 1st Message. In that message, the Pope took the lead among the western powers in recognizing the Nationalist government of a united China. It was against this background that Yu Pin wrote his treatise “To all Chinese Catholics of the Nation.” Similar to the treatise “To Chinese Catholics of Nanjing concerning the Lugouqiao Incident (Marco Polo Bridge Incident),” which Yu Pin wrote the previous year, this treatise also urged all Catholics to love their country, to pray for peace, and to be prepared for the call to war. Since the letter mentioned the August 1st Message, which was a reference to the Holy See’s earlier attitude towards China, foreigners who did not have this background would find it difficult to understand the letter. For this reason, Lou Tseng-Tsiang said, “this writing is far-sighted”, and hoped that Lo Kuang who knew the background could translate it into Italian. However, it was not easy for an article to be published in L'OsservatoreRomano.
So Lou was only expressing a personal desire.
In order to care for Catholics in different countries and regions, the Vatican would usually put up with the existing political reality. On September 10, 1938, Pope Pius XI received the diplomatic corps of Manchukuo (the Empire of Manchuria), headed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Han Yun, at Castel Gandolfo. Lo Kuang had written to Lou Tseng-Tsiang complaining about the diplomatic practice of the Holy See. Lou answered on November 3, 1938. Firstly he asserted that the Holy See loved China; then he continued: “Honestly, advice on foreign affairs is given to the Holy See by laity, missionaries, diplomatic delegates, and representatives of the Holy See, all of whom are in extraordinary positions. The matter should not be viewed from an ordinary perspective.” Then Lou explained to Lo from his many years of diplomatic experience, that the diplomatic objective of the Holy See differed from that of other countries. As such, the Holy See's attitude towards Manchukuo was that: “There's no harm in acknowledging the reality, which may be favorable to evangelical work. This should not be compared with the diplomatic recognition of Germany and Italy regarding Poland.”
On February 15, 1939, Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote a long letter to Lo Kuang, which began like this: “In a separate mailing, I will send you the Yishibao Overseas Newsletter issue No. 1 this year.” Yishibao was published in Tianjin as a patriotic newspaper. It was forced to stop publication immediately after the Japanese occupied Tianjin in 1937. At the suggestion of Vincent Lebbe, Yu Pin prepared to have Yishibao published in Kunming. In December 1938 Yishibao re-appeared in Kunming. In February 1939 the Overseas Newsletter, of which Lou Tseng-Tsiang was the editor, was also published. From the timing it was obvious that several months earlier, during the preparation period, Yu Pin entrusted this work to Lou Tseng-Tsiang. Although Lou was in the monastery, he felt the obligation to resist Japanese aggression, and so he accepted the request.
In the same letter, Lou also mentioned the passing away of Pope Pius XI: “I wonder how busy you are… Bishop Yu traveled from Paris to the United States on a French liner on the 1st of the month, arriving in New York on the 8th, and phoned to talk about the translation of the obituary of the Holy Father.” After finishing this letter, Lou Tseng-Tsiang, expressing his personal feelings, commented on the situation of China and the world.
“During this time when the world has gone astray, and human hearts are shaky, it will need more than three generations of generous people to come out to help, otherwise it is impossible to rule the country and to bring peace to the world. Our country has Generalissimo Chiang and Bishop Ye-Sheng, who although they differ in position and responsibility, they both have the same desire. We find no one comparable to them in our country. Just as King Albert I and Cardinal Mercier, worked hand in hand, and were one in mind and heart, they handled the crisis, and finally they returned victoriously to the old capital and offered a solemn thanksgiving Mass, to express their gratitude to the citizens. They were unquestionably good leaders who cared for the nation, the people, and the land. These two persons now re-appear in an ancient country in East Asia! Let us wait and see. I only mention this to intimate friends, and it is not to be disclosed to other people.”
Lou Tseng-Tsiang compared Chiang Kai-Shek and Yu Pin to the Belgian King Albert I and Cardinal Mercier of the First World War period. He hoped China could follow the footsteps of Belgium during the First World War, with the two leaders, one political and one religious, joining hands to fight the war and finally achieve victory. Lou's patriotism is obvious from this aspiration of his.
Not long after this letter, Pius XII was elected the new Pope. In the Biography of Lou Tseng-Tsiang, Lo Kuang wrote: “I wrote to Lou in great haste, requesting him to contact the Chinese government and ask them to send an envoy to the inauguration ceremony. I suggested that Ambassador Gu Weijun or Ambassador Qian Tai would be suitable persons.” Lou Tseng-Tsiang agreed with Lo's suggestion, and replied on March 6: “It's an exceptional opportunity to have the inauguration of a new Pope, and your suggestion about envoys is appropriate.” He even asked Lo Kuang to contact Yu Pin as soon as possible, because “For years Bishop Ye-Sheng has been concerned about sending of envoys to the Holy See; perhaps he may wish to give a call to the central government to speak in more detail about this. Your call will jointly verify the importance of this.” Although Lou Tseng-Tsiang was in the monastery, he was able to map out a strategy, which eventually facilitated the sending of Gu Weijun as envoy to attend the inauguration of Pius XII in Rome. It was the first time that the Foreign Ministry of China officially sent an envoy to the Holy See.
Among church people, Lou Tseng-Tsiang admired Ma Xiangbo the most. Before the centenary birthday of Ma Xiangbo, Lou explained to Lo Kuang the significance of Ma: “Ma is a respectable elderly Catholic. He founded the Aurora University and other charitable organizations, and has made great contributions to the country. Since the Shenyang Incident, he aroused his fellow citizens to stand up to save the nation. He also had the attitude of crying out for the lost land to be restored. Ma is a role model for people who strive to save their nation.”
A little more than half-a-year after celebrating his 100th birthday, Ma died in Liangshan in Vietnam. When this news arrived, Lou Tseng-Tsiang made cards in memory of Ma to distribute among their European and American friends. On the back of the card he wrote the reason for making the card. A photo of Ma Xiangbo and some information in French about his life appeared on the right side of the front of the card. On the left side was a sample of Ma Xiangbo's calligraphy: “Restore our lost land,” which Ma wrote in October 1932. This card shows that Lou Tseng-Tsiang, just as Ma Xiangbo, loved God, loved humanity, and loved his nation. They also shared the same hope for “restoration of the lost land.”
Lou Tseng-Tsiang had other cards in the monastery that demonstrated his patriotism. In a card to Lo Kuang on August 25, 1939, he expressed his anxiety about the situation in Europe: “We can only pray for God’s mercy.” This card was made on March 12, 1938. On the front was the national emblem of the Republic of China and a portrait of Sun Wen. Below it was a maxim of the Father of the Nation, written before he died: “The revolution is not accomplished yet; comrades still have to work hard.” He also had a pad of writing paper with a square at the top left corner. The square had a green background with a red heart. In the heart were written four Chinese characters meaning “All united for one purpose,” and the in the four corners of this little icon were four Chinese characters that meant: “Do not forget the national humiliation.” Lou usually used this letter paper in his correspondence with Lo Kuang. In the 1940s when Germany occupied Belgium, letters were inspected, and languages apart from English, French, German and Italian were banned in correspondence. The icon on the writing paper containing the Chinese words for “All united for one purpose” and “Do not forget the national humiliation” spoke more than words. Two months before his death, Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote to Lo Kuang:
“The nation is in great crisis, and I wonder when God will become so saddened that He saves our country from this tremendous suffering. Today I sent a letter to the Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith, to Archbishop Costantini, and to the acting Secretary of State, urging them to implement the letter of Pope Pius XI. I enclosed cards in memory of Ma Xiangbo, and added a few other brief words. I briefly mentioned the encroachment of the communists, and asked for their prayers. If these three parties respond, I hope you can convey my thoughts, first to thank the Holy See for all the arrangements they have made for me, secondly to express concern for them, and thirdly to ask for their continuous prayers….”
At this point when Lou Tseng-Tsiang was near the end of his journey on earth, his heart was still with China. He did all he could to help China maintain her diplomatic relations. That clearly demonstrated Lou's love for his country.
An important participant in the Church of China
In 1939, China sent an envoy to congratulate the Holy See at the inauguration of Pius XII as the new Pope. Lo Kuang wished to take this opportunity to normalize the envoy and thus establish formal diplomatic relations between China and the Holy See. Lou Tseng-Tsiang learned about Lo's thoughts, and replied him: “There are people in the central government that take charge of foreign affairs, and they will have their own judgment. It is difficult for those residing overseas to see the whole picture. It is hard to give advice when one does not have a thorough comprehension of the situation. As for our prior suggestion of sending an envoy to offer good wishes, it was simply ceremonial affair. So it did not matter if we went beyond the formal procedure and gave advice. But when policy is involved, it is not suitable to act for them. Moreover, the effect will be far-reaching. Thus a slight blunder will make a great difference, harming the individual as well as the public….”
It was the new situation in Europe after the outbreak of the war that prompted Lo Kuang to seek Lou Tseng-Tsiang's
advice about sending an envoy to the Vatican. Pius XII worried that the war would spread; therefore on Christmas Eve 1939 he proposed five principles for peace, hoping that the countries would stop war, and come to a settlement. In that situation, the United States, which at that time did not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, sent a personal representative to the Vatican to meet the Pope, and presented a letter written by President Roosevelt. Following this example, it would be reasonable for the head of the Nationalist Government or Committee Chairman Chiang to send a personal representative to the Holy See. In 1940, the Nationalist Government had made effort in this direction. But in January 1941, Cardinal Celso Costantini told an official at the embassy of the Republic of China in Italy: “The Holy See wishes to reach an agreement on the establishment of embassies on both sides, but with the prevailing international tension, it is not possible to express any political indication. This meant that the Holy See courteously declined the Republic of China's
offer of establishing diplomatic relations at that time. It also showed that Lou Tseng-Tsiang was correct in his understanding of international affairs, as well as of the Holy See's foreign policy.
On December 8, 1939, the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith of the Holy See promulgated a decree, which abolished the previous decree that prohibited the performing of the Chinese rites. That was another major event concerning the Church in China. On January 2, 1940, Lou Tseng-Tsiang received Lo Kuang’s report regarding this news, and he replied immediately: “The Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith promulgated the decree on ‘Paying respect to Confucius and the deceased,’ implying that all past misunderstandings are eliminated. This action warrants our respect and admiration. You should mention this when you write to Cardinal Costantini.” From this letter we can feel the excitement of Lou Tseng-Tsiang. On the one hand, he was a sentimental person, as can be seen from his letters, where he often mentioned his late father, his late teacher and his late wife. He was also a person who showed filial piety to his parents. For instance, when he was working with the Northern Government in Beijing, his place of work made it inconvenient for him to pay respect to his parents at their graves. Thus he relocated his parents' graves to Beijing so that he could visit their graves more frequently. Now, when the Holy See lifted the ban on paying respect to one's
ancestors and to Confucius, naturally all sorts of feelings welled up in Lou's heart.
On December 8, 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, and on the following day the United States declared war on Japan. As far as China was concerned, the Sino-Japanese War, originally localized in Asia, now became part of the World War. In this new situation, since Japan hoped to establish diplomatic ties with the Holy See, due to a consideration of diplomatic balance, it created room for the establishment of diplomatic ties between China and the Holy See as well. Negotiations on the establishment of diplomatic relations gradually took shape around March and April 1942. On April 16, 1942, Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote to Lo Kuang in French. (Lou probably learnt about the news of diplomatic relations from newspapers or broadcast, and not from Lo Kuang.) He wrote:
“I already knew that China will set up an embassy at the Holy See, but the title is not yet confirmed. Thank God that this matter, which we have been discussing for some fifty years, has now fortunately been settled. I think that all Catholics will be ecstatic when they learn that a Chinese embassy will be established at the Vatican. Non-Catholics in China would also consider this an honor. I believe that soon we will have the good fortune of hearing about the arrival of the first Chinese ambassador. When that happens, you must tell me all about it.
In March and April 1942, during the period of negotiations, both China and the Holy See disseminated news to the outside world. The trend seemed to be that China would overtake Japan in the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See. Japan made it clear that she did not want to be after China in having diplomatic relations with the Vatican. Japan also protested to the Holy See that China should be represented by the Wang Jingwei faction in Nanjing. However, the Holy See remained silent on this objection. Not long afterwards, on April 24, Japan's special envoy Ken Harada, with the rank of ambassador, arrived in Rome. On May 5, the Pope received Ken Harada, who presented his letter of accreditation to the Pope. Lo Kuang, who did not get any news about this in Rome, wrote to Lou Tseng-Tsiang and anxiously sought his opinion. He also requested Lou to write to Cardinal Costantini. Lou replied:
“Concerning the news of Sino-Vatican diplomatic relations, you told me that it was from a Swiss newspaper, and you think that it was true. Since L’OsservatoreRomano remained silent, we should take that as a positive sign. I do not hear any news from here concerning this matter; all I can do is to pray. It is sensitive to write to Cardinal Costantini at this particular moment, because he hasn’t mentioned anything to you. In view of this situation, I think that our country can only send a diplomatic representative to the Holy See after the war.”
It was from his past diplomatic experience that Lou drew this conclusion. It never occurred to him that United States'
backing would come into play in Sino-Vatican diplomatic relations. In June 1942, diplomatic negotiations held in the United States were near completion, and it was decided that Hsieh Shou-kang, China’s charg? d’affaires in Switzerland at that time, would be appointed minister plenipotentiary to the Holy See.
After overcoming many complications, Hsieh Shou-kang eventually arrived at the Vatican in January 1943 to serve as minister plenipotentiary of the Republic of China. Due to the unique diplomatic nature of the Holy See, Hsieh Shou-kang asked to have Lo Kuang as “an advisor to Church affairs.” He obtained the consent of the Nationalist government in March. Lou Tseng-Tsiang got this news in May 1943, and he joyfully wrote to Lo Kuang:
“I am very happy to hear that Your Reverence has been appointed Advisor to the Republic of China's ambassadorial mission to the Holy See. Congratulations! We have no experience of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, but I have heard from veterans that it is the best in the world. It is a wonderful blessing opportunity from heaven to accompany Hsieh Shou-kang and to have this experience. Catholic countries, such as France, Belgium, Italy, and Austria, etc. consider it to be a once in a lifetime honor to be a diplomat to the Holy See. I have always looked forward to the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Holy See, and I also wished that I could be sent to such an embassy. I would love to meet the Holy Father in person and to pay my respects to him. However, I was not born at the opportune time, and regretfully my wish did not come true. Nevertheless, God in His wisdom has His own plan. He has made me a priest, and instead of representing the government, I have become a disciple of Christ to spread His gospel. How wonderful this is!”
In early August 1945, the Chinese ambassador to Belgium, Jin Wensi, accompanied Bishop Yu Pin to visit Lou Tseng-Tsiang. Jin Wensi reported to the Foreign Affairs Ministry: “Bishop Yu Pin came from Paris recently, and he mentioned that there would be an election for 31 Cardinals. Our country might want to propose to the Holy See or to concerned departments the nomination of Father Lou Tseng-Tsiang as a candidate. His election would be helpful to church affairs, and at the same time elevate the our nation’s position in the international scene….” Jin Wensi did not understand the procedure for electing Cardinals, and government “nomination” was taboo in the Vatican anyway. Of course with Lo Kuang as an advisor on church affairs to deal with diplomatic matters with the Holy See, Hsieh Shou-kang would not “nominate” Lou Tseng-Tsiang. Instead he would try to approach the Holy See in private and propose Lou's name. When Yu Pin asked Lou Tseng-Tsiang what he thought about this matter, Lou understood that Yu Pin and Hsieh Shou-kang had proposed him as a candidate for Cardinal. Lou himself had no intention of accepting the office. He was a Benedictine monk, and the main purpose of his life is to be in communion with God. If he became a Cardinal he would inevitably be engaged in many worldly distractions. Thus he wrote to Qian Tai, a Chinese diplomat in France, saying that “he made it clear that he did not want to be elevated to Cardinal. He recommended Bishop Yu Pin as a candidate.” On December 24, 1945, the list of new Cardinals was announced. Pope Pius XII had selected Tian Gengxin, the Bishop of Qingdao, to be the first Chinese Cardinal. Both Hsieh Shou-kang and Lo Kuang were dumbfounded at this news. After reviewing the information he received, Lo Kuang wrote to Yu Pin in April 1946 and explained:
“Hsieh Shou-kang has inquired about this to the Holy See, and found out that the criteria that the Pope adopted this time in appointing the cardinals was to choose from different countries. Since you have been in other countries for many years, it is difficult to for you to represent the Church in China sufficiently well. So you were not chosen. We thought that since they wanted to choose a bishop of China, it would be fitting if the bishop of the capital were nominated. But the Holy See responded that the Bishop of Nanjing is still young, and he has many opportunities to be chosen in the future. But the underlying reason may be intervention from the Congregation for the Propagation of the Faith. The Congregation was of the opinion that the first Chinese cardinal should have the support of all. But the apostolic delegate and some missionaries disapproved of the Bishop of Nanjing. So in order to please all parties, they chose a trustworthy and modest Chinese bishop.”
On February 20, 1946, Pope Pius XII conferred the red hat on Thomas Cardinal Tian Gengxin, making him the first Chinese Cardinal. On March 10, the new Cardinal set off on a visit to several places in Europe. When he arrived in Belgium, he paid a visit to Lou Tseng-Tsiang. In a June 5, 1946 letter, Lou described his impression of Tian: “Everyone agrees that His Eminence Cardinal Tian is a humble, virtuous person.” As for their conversation, Lou Tseng-Tsiang recalled most clearly these words of Cardinal Tian: “I sincerely hope that you can return to our mother country, and that we can work together.” Lou did not reject this invitation completely. He simply replied, “I only regret that I am aging, and my energy is diminishing.”
In the same letter, Lou Tseng-Tsiang humbly told Lo Kuang that he was not worthy to be appointed as a Titular Abbot. He said: “The Holy See bestows a special favor on me, which really makes me nervous. I wonder how I should deal with their benevolence. The conferment ceremony is on August 10. …I hope you can be present. It has been a long time since we have met. How I long to see you and to have an intimate chat with you.” Like a Titular Bishop, who need not go to the named diocese, the title Titular Abbot of the Benedictine Order did not require Lou to assume the leadership of the named abbey. In fact, that abbey had been destroyed long ago, maintaining its existence in name only. In his Biography of Lou Tseng-Tsiang, Lo Kuang wrote, “The title of Titular Abbot was introduced only in recent years, and it has been bestowed on only a few persons. Because monks have renounced the secular world for a solitary life, the Holy See does not wish to expose them to such vanity. It is only with an extraordinary few for whom the Holy Father wishes to show his respect, that he confers upon them the title Titular Abbot.” Even though Lou Tseng-Tsiang was remarkable, if the times were not extraordinary, the Pope would not have conferred this title upon him. Obviously it was a consolation prize for not being made a Cardinal. On the other hand, Lou Tseng-Tsiang was indifferent to receiving this honorary title, but he appreciated the Holy Father's kindness anyway.
At the end of this letter, with deep feeling he told Lo Kuang: “I am pleased to hear that the Holy See has conferred the title of Monsignor on you. In these past two years our country has advanced greatly. Is it destiny or luck? Is it human effort or heavenly endowment? Both must have gone together for things to work out so well. If any of the factors were lacking, we could hardly dream that we could accomplish this. As the saying goes, God helps those who help themselves ? the ancients have not deceived us! You went to Italy for further studies in order to save the nation, and I went to Belgium to find the Way, and to die a happy death. Today both of us have not got what we sought, or maybe we obtained beyond what we asked for. We can only be ‘obedient’ to His Holiness.” So due to obedience to the Pope, Lou Tseng-Tsiang accepted the title of Titular Abbot. His obedience also taught Lo Kuang that he need not feel sorry on his behalf. Clergy or religious, who relinquished secular titles, had the pure intention of imitating Christ. In July 1946, Hsieh Shou-kang received orders to take up a new posting. Lo Kuang thought that this order came too quickly, especially since Hsieh Shou-kang received the credit for the establishment of diplomatic relations. During the war, he withstood the siege of the Vatican, and it seemed rather callous to transfer him only a year or so after the war. Lo Kuang wrote to Lou Tseng-Tsiang about this, and on July 29, 1946 Lou replied:
“Concerning the return of ambassador Hsieh to China, from the message it does seem quite arbitrary. But when we consider carefully how the government deploys people, they must have thought over it very thoroughly. Moreover, considering envoys posted abroad, it is difficult to have one as good as Hsieh Shou-kang…. Their intention was that since Hsieh has been abroad for so many years, it was time for him to return home, to witness the development of the nation, and to cooperate with concerned departments to discuss national affairs. For this same reason, I also wish to be back home. The nation is at a critical moment of transformation; everyone should take the national affairs to their hearts. You have been away from the country for 16 years, and it is about time to go back. So it may be opportune to resign when the new envoy takes up his post.”
Obviously Lou Tseng-Tsiang disapproved of Lo Kuang’s disagreement with Hsieh’s re-assignment. According to the common practice of diplomatic deployment, the current needs of the nation must be the first priority. There was also his own example. Lou himself, though weak, still wished to return to the mother country to serve the Church. Lou’s message to Lo Kuang, then, was not to attach himself too much to Rome, nor should he be deluded by the desire to take part in important matters. “You have been away from the country for 16 years, and it is about time for you to go back.” — these were the most severe words that Lou had ever written to Lo. After receiving them, Lo Kuang did apply to the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith for permission to return to China. Perhaps Lou Tseng-Tsiang felt that the above words were a bit too harsh for on December 23, 1946, Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote to Lo Kuang: “I wonder about you working in the Chinese embassy, just as I had worked in the Chinese embassy in Russia for 14 years, which was an invaluable experience for me. If the new ambassador insists that you stay, it seems appropriate to ask Archbishop Costantini to excuse you from your prior request, so that you can remain in the embassy in Rome for a longer period of time. Hopefully in ten years' time Catholicism will have spread all over our nation.” In this letter, Lou Tseng-Tsiang reversed his request that Lo Kuang consider returning home. All in all, it was difficult for the Chinese embassy to the Holy See to find an advisor as fitting as Lo Kuang.
Wu Ching-Hsiung was the second Chinese Minister Plenipotentiary to the Holy See. He arrived in Rome on January 21, 1947, and he had an audience with the Pope on February 16, at which he delivered a speech in English. This speech synthesized Chinese culture and the essence of the Catholic faith, and was well received. After reading the speeches of both sides, Lou Tseng-Tsiang joyfully wrote to Lo Kuang: “The ceremony at which the envoy Wu Ching-Hsiung presented his credentials was very solemn. His speech and the response were both warm. Both the Church and our country are to be commended. The Catholic Church of our mother country has entered a new era, which would never be possible if it were not God’s plan, …to have this official is tremendously valuable, just as I had Xu Wensu when I was in Russia.” Wu Ching-Hsiung worked seriously and under a rigorous schedule in translating the Bible, and by June 1947 he had finished the first draft for St. John's Gospel. He immediate sent it to Lou Tseng-Tsiang for his comments. Lou sent a very courteous reply:
“I have read through your translation of St. John’s Gospel three times, and I like it very much. I had a pen in my hand ready to make notes and mark out phrases that are not so understandable and report back to you. However, it only got more fluent as I read further along through the text. I can tell you honestly that there is not one line that is incomprehensible…. I think that when you were translating, while you held the pen the Holy Spirit moved your hand, to complete the work smoothly. You initiated the task, and the Holy Spirit moved your hand to do the rest. The ideas poured out like a spring, with the work done at the tip of your pen. The work is both polished and superb. I think the situation was similar to when John the evangelist wrote the original Gospel.”
Not long afterwards, Wu Ching-Hsiung brought his two sons to Belgium to visit Lou Tseng-Tsiang. He recalled with relish their visit: “You visited our monastery with your sons Zu-Yu and Shu-Ping. All of us in the monastery had long heard about the virtues of the new Chinese envoy to the Vatican, and we looked forward to meeting you in person. Therefore we did not merely greet you, but welcomed you with our heart.” In a letter, which Lou sent to Lo Kuang on September 29, he wrote, “The honorable envoy Wu Ching-Hsiung has the manner of the ancient gentleman. We felt like old acquaintances when we met. We talked heart-to-heart, and I was so happy that I forgot that I was aging.” In September 1948, Lo Kuang brought Wu Ching-Hsiung’s complete translation of the New Testament to Lou Tseng-Tsiang for his inspection. Lo Kuang recalled that the Congregation for Propagation of the Faith vested Yu Pin with the authority to inspect the translation. However, Yu Pin, in turn, entrusted Lou Tseng-Tsiang and Lo Kuang to be the examiners. Lou Tseng-Tsiang looked upon this translation of the New Testament as a major event during the time of his participation in the Catholic Church of China.
“Yesterday I wrote to Wu Ching-Hsiung, and I briefly mentioned three graces that I received after I entered the monastery, namely, being ordained a priest in 1935, being given the title of Titular Abbot in 1946, and reading the Chinese translation of the New Testament in 1948. Moreover, Lo Kuang brought the translation to me in person, so that I could meet him. I was so happy that I forgot my illness and my age…. When it is published, I am keen to see its impact on our mother country, in changing people's hearts and enhancing social mores and helping to bring about unity in the Church. I look forward to these things and earnestly pray that they are accomplished. It would be a blessing not only for the Chinese, but also for the whole of humanity.”
The year 1943 commemorated the 1400th year of the death of Benedict, and the Vatican held a large-scale celebration. The elderly Lou Tseng-Tsiang must have thought that the Benedictines “would renew the East Asia culture, just as they had done in Western Europe in the 6th and 7th centuries…. That was exactly what he had been praying for the previous twenty years. That coincided with the wishes of Archbishop Montini, the Vatican Secretary of State. The abbey in Ghent graciously presented a foundation stone to Lou. Was this in accordance with Archbishop Montini’s wish and was it a sign that Lou should return to his motherland to establish a monastery to promote the faith?” In the last days of his life, in what could have been the highpoint of his faith, Lou Tseng-Tsiang longed that the Gospel would spread in China, and that the Order of St. Benedict would make its contribution to China as it had done in medieval Europe.
Lou Tseng-Tsiang's love for his Church, and love for his country
First I must point out that this sequence, “love for the Church, and love for the country” is intentional. For a Christian, love for the Church certainly takes priority over love for the country. In fact, love for the Church and love for the country belong to two different aspects, and I should not emphasize their priority of one over the other. Nonetheless, in actual political life, there are governments who look upon the Church as another type of political organization, and they insist that believers must first love their country before they can love their Church. In accordance with this assumption, they formulate judgments about historical figures, and they even lay down standards and regulations for religious practice in real life. This essay does not deal with politics in the actual world, but only focused on Lou Tseng-Tsiang, the monk who spent 23 years in a monastery. As such, we look first of all at his religious belief. Only by starting from his faith can we see his values in life. Whether speaking of love for the Church or love for the country, the foundation is “love”. Both St. Paul and St. John had deep experience of God’s love. Because God loved humankind, He sent His Son into the world. Jesus saved humankind through His sacrifice on the Cross. The core meaning of Jesus Christ’s life is love and salvation. To be a Christian is to imitate Christ in “love of God and love of neighbor.” In Lou Tseng-Tsiang’s Souvenirs et Pens?es, he wrote:
“It is only when I have entered the monastery that I really became familiar with the doctrine of the Catholic Church. This nearness was first experienced in the prayers, then in the public rites of prayers, and finally in the meaning of prayers…. When I touched upon the passion of Christ, … when I recalled the words and deeds of Christ, and the suffering of His body and spirit, I bestirred myself and strove incessantly, at the advanced age of 60, to begin a totally new life, the life of a monk in a monastery.”
These words came from Lou Tseng Tsiang's deep prayer experience, when he experienced God's love, the love of Christ, and his union with this divine love. He was left with no alternative but to repay love for love in his life. Therefore, other human beings are lovable, and the nation is lovable. However, this earthly love originates from God. Lou Tseng-Tsiang understood this. We can call him a patriot from the way he speaks. From the view of his brothers in the monastery, his patriotism was acceptable, because although they differed in nationality, yet the source of Lou’s love for his country was God.
“All our suffering will be lightened, will have its meaning and will find an answer in the salvific plan of Christ, because we should also try our best to participate in the great work of saving the world. In this sense, our suffering will lose its pain… Furthermore, these sufferings will become the source of blessings and new life for ourselves and for those whom we love.”
“Because he loved God, so he loved the nation” is an important concept for understanding the Chinese Catholics of that period. Thus although they had not met each other for many years, deep in Lou's
heart he recognized the patriotic motivation of Ma Xiangbo. Lou considered that Ma loved his nation not merely for the objective of national dignity and equality. In 1939, after the death of Ma, Lou collected the photos and calligraphy of Ma Xiangbo, including the phrase, “Let's restore our lost land,” and made a memorial card from these. A couplet written by Jin Wensi, the Chinese envoy to Belgium, “His thoughts, his words, his actions — love God, love the country, and love humanity” was placed on both sides of Ma's photo. On the back of the card Lou Tseng Tsiang wrote:
“I think our master has made good use of his love to love God, love humanity, and love the country. His thoughts, his words and his actions are all filled with the fire of love, are all obedient to God’s will. Probably God is the source of his fire of love.
Jin Wensi wrote: “love God, love the country, and love humanity”, but Lou Tseng-Tsiang put “love humanity” before “love the country”. That was not done by mistake, but due to difference in the perception of Ma Xiangbo between Lou and Jin.
When I read the line of our master ‘Let's restore our lost land,’ I feel that that cry comes from love. The spirit of the sentence is not limited to the literal expression about reclaiming the lost land, but it comes from ultimate love.
It is regrettable that the ultimate love in the heart is not fulfilled. We who believe in God will pray to God, and we pray that the words will be fulfilled soon.
From today onwards, I know that our master was born of love, grew in love, died in love, and would soon resurrect in love. Thus when I mourn over my master, I will also remember him in the word, love.”
“Filial piety” is a form of love. After Lou Tseng-Tsiang entered the monastery, he had a deeper understanding of his filial piety towards his parents. Lou understood that Jesus’ incarnation for the salvation of humanity, was out of obedience to the Father’s command and was a model of filial piety. The aspect of “filial piety” in Chinese Confucian thought and that of the Christian faith are of one accord. He had written an article “On filial piety according to the Sages” to illustrate the connection between the two. Here is a passage from it:
“At the front fa?ade of St. Peter's Basilica there are five doors, one of which is called the Holy Door. This door is opened only in Holy Years. So the faithful from all over the world, when they come to Rome on pilgrimage, enter through the Holy Door and obtain plenary indulgence. This signifies Christ’s incarnation and salvation, and the whole world rising up in celebration.
On July 7, in the 26th year of the ROC calendar, the Japanese army attacked Lugouqiao (Marco Polo Bridge). Lou Tseng-Tsiang copied a “Citation from US President Roosevelt's inaugural address,” and disseminated it widely to people of different walks of life. The content was Paul's first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 13. Lou Tseng-Tsiang wrote: “In reading the citation from Roosevelt's inaugural address, we can see that he will carry out his duties with love…. Roosevelt did many good deeds for the benefit of humanity, but ultimately they had all come from Roosevelt's acceptance of the words of St. Paul. So we can see the profound influence of the Church teachings.” When Lou Tseng-Tsiang expressed of his patriotism, its roots can be traced back to the famous lines on love written by St. Paul. We can see that the motivation for Lou's patriotism came from his love for God and for humanity. (Professor Chen Fang-Chung concludes his article with Lou Tseng-Tsiang's own translation into Chinese of St. Paul's Chapter 13 of 1st Corinthians.)
In Qufu [the place in Shandong where Confucius was born] and Konglin [the tomb of Confucius in Shandong], there is the home of Confucius, and the two words “Lubi” [the walls of Confucius' home] engraved on a rock. By the side is an ancient well. Local tourists, as well as those from overseas, come here to revere the remnant of the ancient sage.
Thus the Roman Holy Door and the Konglin Lubi together form an example of filial piety, the blending of Catholicism and Confucianism in one pot, as a sign of eastern and western cultural exchange. In Confucian teaching filial piety is the most important of all virtues. The incarnation of Jesus is the result of His obedience to the Father. Thus He is the model of filial piety. So we can see that the teaching of Confucius is in line with the Gospel, and they are not different.”
- Souvenir et Pens?es, pp. 34-35, cited from Lo Kuang, Biography of Lou Tseng-Tsiang《陸徵祥傳》, pp. 73-74.
- The name of the speech was “Letter to the Chinese Catholics on the 10th Anniversary of the Pope's August 1st Message”（教宗八一通電十週年紀念告全國教胞）, in Collection of Bishop Yu Pin's talks against the war 《于斌主教抗戰言論集》, pp. 63-71. Hong Kong: Truth Society, June 1939, second edition.
- Lou Tseng-Tsiang's letter in Complete Works of Lo Kuang 《羅光全書》, Vol. 31, the date is wrong, due to an oversight in proofreading.
- Letter of Lou Tseng-Tsiang to Lo Kuang, April 5, 1939, in Complete Works of Lo Kuang《羅光全書》, Vol. 31, p. 438.
- Letter of Lo Kuang to Cardinal Yu Pin, April 4, 1946. The letter is now in the History Materials Room of Fu Jen University.
- Archbishop Montini at that time was acting Secretary of State; later he became Pope Paul VI.
- Citation from Lo Kuang: Biography of Lou Tseng-Tsiang 《陸徵祥傳》, pp. 181-182.