Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions

In the sixth century, Christianity made its way from Syria to China. Over the years, Christianity in China flourished freely or was compelled to function covertly, depending on the country's connections with the outside world.

This group of 120 martyrs died between 1648 and 1930. Of them, eighty-seven were labourers, catechists, parents, or children, ages 9 to 72. All of them were born in China. There are four Chinese diocesan priests in this group. The majority of the 33 foreign-born victims were priests or female religious members, particularly from the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, the Society of Jesus, and the Society of St. Francis de Sales (Salesians). Most of them died in the 1900 Boxer Rebellion.

The first native Chinese priest to die as a martyr was Augustine Zhao Rong. Born in 1746, he was one of the soldiers who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse to his martyrdom in Beijing. At thirty years old, Augustine sought baptism as a result of the bishop's testimony. Five years later, he was consecrated as a priest, and in 1815, he was executed.

A 14-year-old Chinese girl named Ann Wang is among the most well-known local martyrs; she was slain during the Boxer Rebellion for refusing to convert to Christianity. She defied her captors' threats with courage, and as she was ready to be beheaded, she exclaimed, "The door of heaven is open to everyone," and she chanted the name of Jesus three times.

Another martyr was 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who was about to undergo the sacrament of baptism when he was seized on the road one night and forced to worship idols. He showed his faith in Christ by refusing to do so. Despite being tortured and having his right arm amputated, he refused to abandon his faith. Instead, he boldly declared to his captors, "Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian," just before he was slashed to death.

These 120 martyrs were canonized together in Rome on October 1, 2000, after being beatified in groups at different dates.

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