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Diocese of Yongjia (Wenzhou)

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Diocese of Yongjia (Wenzhou)
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Wenzhou diocese covers three districts, two county-level cities and six counties. The former diocese of Lishui is also entrusted to the care of Wenzhou diocese. The total territorial area is 29,082 square kilometers.


Wenzhou and Lishui have respectively a population of 9.12 million and 2.53 million. Ethnic She, who predominantly reside in the Zhejiang province, has approximately a population of 150,000 living in 15 jurisdictions (1 county, 1 town, 13 townships) in Wenzhou and Lishui.


Wenzhou is linguistically diversified. Besides Chinese Mandarin which is widely in use, the Wenzhou dialect of Oujiang, the Minnan dialect and the tribal language of the ethnic She are also spoken.


Wenzhou was formerly called the diocese of Yongjia. It was carved out from Ningbo diocese on June 29, 1949. Bishop Andre-Jean-Francois Defebvre, C.M. of Ningbo was appointed apostolic administrator and Father Paul Su Xida was made the vicar general to take charge of diocesan affairs. There were 30 priests taking care of 40,000 Catholics but a majority of priest was imprisoned during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76). Churches were closed down and turned into factories.

When religious activities restored in 1978, Fathers Francis Wang Yijun and Simon Cai Shuyi (both now deceased) began with parochial assignment.

Late Bishop James Lin Xili was another diocesan administrator appointed by Bishop Defebvre during the political turmoil in the 1950s. Born in Yueqing in 1918, he entered the seminary in Ningbo in 1931 and ordained priest in 1944. He continued his study in Fu Jen Catholic University in Beijing that same year and graduated in 1948. He returned to Ningbo diocese for pastoral work and served also as the principal of a Church-run secondary school in 1955, before he was arrested for "counter-revolutionary crimes" and sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment. He resumed his pastoral ministry in 1971 after his release. From 1978 he administered pastoral work in Yueqing and helped to restore old churches and build new ones in the diocese.

He was clandestinely ordained on Oct. 4, 1992, as the first bishop of Wenzhou diocese, which the Vatican had formally created from Ningbo in 1949, and the local Church developed rapidly under his leadership. He was forced into hiding to escape arrest in 1998 but was discovered the following year and detained.

Bishop Lin had been under house arrest in Church premises in Wenzhou while in and out of hospital for treatment of Alzheimer's disease since 2000. He died on Oct. 4, 2009, the 17th anniversary of his episcopal ordination, at the age of 91.

Lishui was an independent diocese entrusted to Canadian missioners of the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society. Father William Cecil McGrath, S.F.M. was named prefect when Chuzhou Apostolic Prefecture was established in 1932, and Bishop Kenneth Roderick Turner, S.F.M., was appointed the first ordinary when Chuzhou was elevated to Lishui Diocese in 1948.


Wenzhou literally means a "mild place" where it has a mild climate. It has a subtropical monsoon climate and the four seasons are distinctive. The average temperature of the winter (January) ranges from 4.9 to 9.9 degrees Celsius and in summer (July) it rises from 26.7 to 29.6 degrees Celsius. The annual rainfall of the past years is between 1,113mm to 2,493mm.


Wenzhou is a coastal city located at the southeastern part of Zhejiang province with the East Sea to its east and the inland Lishui at its west. To its south, it neighbors with Nanping of the Fujian province.


Wenzhou is a city full of vibrant business activities. When China began economic reforms in 1978, Wenzhou was the first city to set up individual and private enterprises as well as a shareholding cooperative economy in China. Being a pioneer in utilizing marketing mechanism to develop urban constructions, Wenzhou has won a number of firsts in China and set many national records.

In the early days of economic reforms, the people of Wenzhou took the lead in developing a commodity economy, household industries and specialized markets. Many thousands of people and families were engaged in household manufacturing to develop individual and private economy. The development of private economy in Wenzhou has created the "Wenzhou Economic Model", which inspires the modernization drive in China.

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