Blessed Gregory Grassi and Companions 8th July

In 1844 a treaty was agreed which permitted the Chinese to follow the Catholic religion: another ,in 1846,with which the old penalties against Catholics were abolished.from then on the Church could live openly and carry on its missionary activity , developing it also in the sphere of higher education,in universities and scientific research. with the multiplication of various top-level cultural Institutes and thanks to their highly valued activity, ever deeper links were gradually established between the Church and China  with its rich cultural traditions. This collaboration with the Chinese authorities further increased the mutual appreciation and sharing of those true values that must underpin every civilised society.

An era of expansion in the Christian missions passed,with the exception of the period in which they were struck by the disaster of the uprising by the”society for Justice and Harmony” (commonly known as the “Boxers”).This occurred at the beginning of the twentieth century and caused the shedding of the blood of many Christians. It is known that, mingled in this were all the secret societies and the accumulated and repressed  hatred against foreigners in the last decades of the nineteenth century,because of the political and social changes following the Opium War and the imposition of the so called “unequal treaties”on the part of the Western Powers. Very different ,however,  was the motive for the persecution of the missionaries,even though they were of European nationality. Their slaughter was brought about solely on religious grounds. They were killed for same reason as the Chinese faithful who had become Christians. Reliable historical documents provide evidence of the anti-christian hatred which spurred the “Boxers” to massacre the missionaries and the faithful of the area who had adhered to their teaching. In this regard ,an edict was issued on 1 July 1900 which ,in substance. said that the time of good relations with European missionaries and their Christians was now past:that the former must be repatriated at once and the faithful forced to apostatise, on penalty of death.                                                                                                                                   As a result ,the martyrdom took place of several missionaries and many Chinese who can be grouped together as follows;a) Martyrs of Shanxi, killed on 9 July 1900, who were Franciscan Friars Minor. Blessed Gregory Grassi, Blessed Francis Fogolla ,Blessed Elias Facchini, Blessed Theodoric Balat, Blessed Andrew Bauer. To the the martyred Franciscans of the First Order were added seven Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, of whom three were French, two Italians, one Belgian,and one Dutch. there were also eleven Secular Franciscans all Chinese.  The fact that this considerable number of Chinese lay faithful offered their lives for Christ together with the missionaries who had proclaimed the Gospel to them and had been so devoted to them ,is evidence of the depth of the link that faith in Christ establishes.  It gathers into a single family people of various races and cultures, strongly uniting them not for political motives but in virtue of a religion that preaches love , brotherhood, peace and justice.

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