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Diocese of Shanghai

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Diocese of Shanghai
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In a land area of 6,340 square kilometers, the diocesan territory covers Shanghai Municipality. Shanghai is administratively equal to a province and is divided into 18 county-level divisions: 17 districts and one county. There is no single downtown district in Shanghai, the urban core is scattered across several districts.


Shanghai is the largest city in China in terms of population and one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with over 22 million people at the end of 2008. (The population of the whole country is about 1.3 billion). Most registered Shanghainese residents are descendants of immigrants from the two adjacent provinces of Jiangsu and Zhejiang who moved to Shanghai in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, regions that generally also speak Wu Chinese. In the past decade, many migrants from other areas of China has come to Shanghai for work, often they do not speak the local dialect and therefore use Mandarin as a lingua franca.


Wu Chinese is the local dialect, there is also Shanghainese, but Mandarin is widely in use as lingua franca.


The Roman Catholic Diocese of Shanghai was erected on Dec. 13, 1933 as the Apostolic Vicariate of Shanghai by Pope Pius XI, and was later elevated to the rank of a diocese on April 11, 1946 by Pope Pius XII, the year when the Chinese Catholic hierarchy was established. The diocese is a suffragan of the Archdiocese of Nanking (Nanjing) since 1946.

The Catholic Church began in Shanghai in 1608, when Paul Xu Guangqi, the first Shanghai Catholic, invited Italian Jesuit Father Lazare Cattaneo to preach here. About 200 people received baptism during the priest's two-year stay, and the first Catholic church was built near Xujiahui. More Jesuits were sent to Shanghai in eastern China.

In 1639, another Italian Jesuit, Father Francesco Brancati, baptized 2,300 people here. He died in southern China but was buried in a Catholic cemetery in Shanghai that would host hundreds of missioners' graves in following centuries. During the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), these graves were desecrated.

But already earlier there had been missioners in the region including learned Jesuits such as Italian Fathers Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) and Julius Aleni (1582-1649), and German Father Adam Schall (1592-1666), who contributed to local arts and sciences including astrology and medicine.

In Nanjing where Matteo Ricci had made friends, the Jesuits also founded a Catholic community and built a church. But in 1616, they were victims of a first violent persecution launched by the governor Shen Que. Christianity was regarded as destructive of the ritual traditions of China.

Partly due to persecutions, the faith spread to poor farmers in the villages and fishermen living on their boats. Crowds of them still gather today e.g. in Sheshan for the May pilgrimage to Our Lady Help of Christians.

Missioners were already using inculturation in their approach to evangelization and were training the laity to manage their churches, a principle stressed by the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) centuries later, Bishop Jin wrote in his pastoral letter of Dec. 24, 2007. Four hundred years ago, he pointed out, the Shanghai Church was already enjoying its "era of laity."


With the development of trade and industry in the 19th century, Shanghai took the lead in economic as well as religious activity. The French Lazarists organised a mission in Ningbo, Zhejiang province. American, British and German Protestants also established their first missions in the open sea ports.

Archbishop Celso Costantini, the first apostolic delegate to China, summoned the First Catholic Synod of China in Shanghai in 1924. The delegate led the bishops to dedicate the Church in China to Our Lady of Sheshan. Plans were made for opening new seminaries in order to train more Chinese priests. In our days, the Sheshan seminary was the first to open after the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

In the 1920s and 1930s, a large section of the Shanghai population was plagued with misery and diseases. The Catholic businessman Lo Pa Hong organised relief services, built schools and hospitals. He formed an association of laymen going out to teach the faith and offer medical care.

Today, Catholic laymen in Shanghai, many of them doctors and lawyers, have formed an Association of the Catholic Intelligentsia to serve the people. Publishing has also been revived by the Guangqi Association and modern Catholic printing press now functions in Qibao.

Some of the Jesuits' past works in Shanghai, including the building of about 20 high schools, a university, an astronomical observatory, a meteorological observatory and several hospitals, which were confiscated during 1950s and mostly became government-run institutes today. They even had a private Western library, publishing house and art gallery, collectively regarded as the "cradle of Western arts in China".


Shanghai has a convenient transportation network leading to other parts of the country. The railways, highways, ports and airports of Shanghai connect it with different countries and regions in the world.


The distinct transition of four seasons is the feature of the climate in Shanghai. Because of long winter and summer, short spring and autumn, there are about 126 days in winter, about 110 days in summer and the total of spring and autumn is about 130 days. Shanghai enjoys the subtropical marine monsoon climate. The annual average temperature is around 16 degrees Celsius, among which the highest temperature appear in July and August when the monthly average temperature is about 28 degrees Celsius, and the lowest temperature in January when the monthly average temperature is 4 degrees Celsius. The annual precipitation is approximately 1100 mm. Without bitter cold winter and sweltering hot summer, Shanghai is suitable for traveling all seasons in a year, of which spring and summer are the best traveling seasons.


Shanghai is often regarded as the center of finance and trade in mainland China. Modern development began with the economic reforms in 1992, a decade later than many of the Southern Chinese provinces, but since then Shanghai quickly overtook those provinces and maintained its role as the business center in mainland China. Shanghai also hosts the largest share market in mainland China.


Bordering Jiangsu Province on the west, Shanghai is washed by the East China Sea on the east and Hangzhou bay on the south. North of city, Yangtze River pours into the East China Sea. It also assumes the central location along China's coastal line. Owing to its advantageous geographic location and easy accesses to a vast hinterland, Shanghai has now become an excellent sea and river port.

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