News of Latin in China and Japan

From a friend:

Dear Fr. Z,

     I’m in the midst of a trip to the Far East, to St. Paul’s sister cities over here, Changsha in China and Nagasaki in Japan. I came a bit early to see more of China again, and I am glad I did because I was surprised to run into a Latin mass my very first time at church here! I was in Shanghai on All Saints’ Day so I went to the main church in town, St. Ignatius Cathedral (in Chinese it’s called the Xu Jia Hui Church after where it’s located, the traditional center of the Jesuits in Shanghai, in the past spelled Ziccawei after Frenchified Shanghai dialect pronuncaition).

The church was jammed and when the mass began I was surprised to see that the celebrant was a visiting Cardinal, the recently-retired Cardinal Wetter of Munich. He was in Shanghai to visit his old friend Archbishop Jin whom he met back in 1948 in Rome.

The mass was Novus Ordo High Mass said in Latin. The well-known church choir of the Shanghai cathedral provided the music, and the congregation was able to follow along reasonably well though not in all parts (the final "Deo gratias" for some reason they didn’t seem to know). The sermon was given in German with Chinese translation, so I wasn’t able to follow it as well as I would have liked, but Cardinal Wetter spoke at some length and warmly. I also met some local German Catholics who live and work in Shanghai, whom I hope to be seeing again when I am there in the future.

Not far away from the church is the ancestral home of the first prominent Catholic convert in Chinese, Xu Guangqi (the neighborhood is named after him), and there is a lovely park there with a large cross erected by the Shanghai diocese over 100 years ago, as well as some statues and pictures of Matteo Ricci and him–there is a nice museum on site too. If you ever make it over to Shanghai–as I fully hope you do!–you simply must get to see it all. I did not make it to She Shan though, that is next on my to-do list.

    The second Latin mass I got to attend was yesterday as I was passing through on the way out to Japan. One of the Germans told me about the mass there that he usually attends so I went to see it, but I didn’t know it was going to be a Latin mass. This one was the older form, probably the 1962 missal though I can’t swear to it, done very well. The priest is not old, I would say about 40, and he’s named Fr. Joseph He Wei. There was a small congregation, perhaps 20-30 people, of which almost all are Chinese with a small contingent of foreigners. He tells me that it’s the only Latin mass in Shanghai, but I am very glad to see it, and not the early morning ones that Beijing has (6:00 AM)–it’s at 10:30. The church is St. Francis Xavier Church on Dongjiadu Road, not far from the Bund in the old French Concession.

    I am afraid I haven’t any pictures of the first mass and not much of the second, but you can imagine it and if you ever make it over then you can fill in the rest! I hope that we can plan something for the solar eclipse next July–I certainly am very taken with the idea.

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8 Responses to News of Latin in China and Japan

  1. Adam says:

    Slight correction: locally, the church is known as Xujiahui da jiaotong. Literally, Xujiahui Big Church (no translation for cathedral in Chinese, so … Big Church). Say it to any Shanghai taxi driver, and he’ll take you directly there.

    The big church has only been known as St. Ignatius since it reopened in the late 1970s. Prior to that, back before it was closed down in 1966, it was the Jesuit Church of St. Francis. When it was returned to the diocese, the CCP was quite adamant that it was no longer a Jesuit Church, and thus the name change.

  2. PB says:

    I was in a mid-sized city in China in 2004 for a conference. One evening I was heading down to the buffet room of the hotel, and suddenly I thought I must be hallucinating, because I thought I heard an organ blasting “O Sanctissima.” It turned out that the sound was coming from a karaoke machine in a reception in a room at the hotel. It was a wedding reception for a Catholic couple! Later, it occurred to me that hearing “O Sanctissima” in a U.S. church these days would be an even more astounding find. :-) Let us pray for our Catholic brethren in China.

  3. Mitch says:

    Curious if these Masses are once in a while occasions (in the case of the visiting father) and if the EF is a remaining “indult” allowance or new since the MP legislation…Any details??

  4. leo says:

    at one time a very pure form of the old rite was the staple of the state controlled patriotic catholic church but i belive that now they have the new rite

  5. J. Wong says:

    While in Beijing in 2005, I attended Sunday Mass at St. Joseph’s Cathedral (Beijing Dongtang). The 6:30 a.m. Mass was a TL Low Mass, while the 8:00 was a NO in Chinese.

    I also was able to visit St. Francis Cathedral in Xian. There I met an elderly priest who showed me around. When I inquired about the Missal on the altar, he proceeded to take me there to take a look. It was the Missale Romanum (perhaps 1954….), not a old copy but a recently printed one in China. I was invited to stay for Mass, but unfortunatelly my scheduled did not allow it.

  6. Adam says:

    Mitch – As all things Chinese and Catholic, the answer to your question is quite complicated. But the simple answer is that, in Shanghai at least, the NO in Latin is is heard on special occasions. For example, Bishop Jin will say it on Christmas and Easter, and I have a very clear and powerful memory of him saying it during the memorial mass for JPII. The handful of priests ordained prior to the late 1950s, and between 1982 and the early 1990s know the EF, but because most of China’s Catholics are young, and only familiar with the NO, there’s little call for it from the pews, MP or not. I cannot speak for what goes on in parishes in the countryside, especially those with older congregations.

  7. jasmine tea says:

    Latin in Japan– Has anybody heard of a church offering Latin Mass on a regular basis in Japan (TLM or NO)?

    I am about to venture out of the countryside for one blessed week, and it would be heavenly to find such a church. I’m headed for Tokyo.

    As a side note, when I looked up the Franciscan Chapel Center in Roppongi, I was pleasantly astounded to see that they now have Adoration time every Sunday from 1-5pm.

  8. John Kusske says:

    I know this is an old page now, but I recently found out that I was wrong on which church in Shanghai has the Latin mass (even though I was there in person…). I thought it was Dongjiadu Church, but it turns out that it’s actually St. Joseph Church on South Sichuan Road in the French Quarter. I hope that will help anyone in Shanghai looking for a mass in Latin! I’m sorry to say that I am unaware of any masses in Latin in Japan at all, though, even in Tokyo. When I was in Nagasaki for a beatification ceremony of 188 martyrs last fall they did a mass in Latin with the visiting papal envoy, but almost none of the congregation knew the responses, and the bishop actually apologized for having mass in Latin. China is better off regarding Latin than Japan, from what I have seen.