Current Issue

No 5 (2020): Maximum Illud
Published: 2022-04-25


  • Cyril J. Law, Jr. (劉偉傑)


    Maximum Illud, the magna carta of Catholic mission in the modern world, aimed at rooting out narrow nationalistic mentality from among the missioners of the universal reign of God. The exhortations contained in the letter reveal certain principles, and the chief of which is an openness to all nations beyond any self-serving interests and other influences from secular sovereign entities. And one of the most practical consequences would be the growth in prominence of the local clergy. In the case of China, unanimous applaud towards this call did not come spontaneously; rather, some felt uneasy with its urging. It was Ma Xiangbo (1840-1939), the venerated Chinese Catholic doyen who took the initiative to translate Maximum Illud into Chinese and published it in the form of pamphlets by means of private funding. The more conscious Chinese clergy and faithful, as well as evangelisation pioneers like Vincent Lebbe (1877-1940) and Celso Costantini (1876-1958), welcomed the document as the sign of a second spring for the integral development of Catholicism with authentic Chinese characteristics. 

    : China Mission, Evangelisation, Inculturation, Colonisation, French Protectorate, Propaganda Fide, Benedict XV, Ma Xiangbo

  • Hugo Gonçalves Dores


    The First World War had devastating consequences to Christian missionary activities, with thousands of missionaries deployed to the front or arrested due to their nationalities. The war’s nationalistic frictions did not spare the religious field. As before, Christian missionaries were seen as representatives of their own countries rather than messengers of their religious denominations. In a way, Benedict XV’s apostolic letter Maximum Illud was the response to those national (and imperialistic) dissensions in the Catholic missionary world by fostering a more supranational consciousness on missionaries’ minds.

    This supranational and Papal-directly-supervised mission was far from complying with Portugal’s old and persisting understandings of a mission submitted to and working on behalf of the imperial state. Despite Portuguese laic policies towards the Catholic Church (namely the Separation regime), the Catholic missions remained a nationalising tool, a concept that disputed the Holy See’s insights on the goals of the missionary work. Although pontifical officials held assertive judgements regarding Portuguese missionary policies, Rome sought a less confrontational relationship with Lisbon even after the publication of Maximum Illud. The Holy See understood how the Catholic missions were indispensable to Portugal and in which way a passive collaboration would ultimately benefit the Catholic evangelisation in Portuguese Africa.

    Keywords: Catholic Mission, Portuguese Empire, Holy See, Maximum Illud.

  • Edmond Eh


    In the history of religions in China, Three Teachings discourses develop the case for a harmonious relationship between Buddhism, Confucianism and Daoism. These discourses represent a traditional Chinese strategy for the management of interreligious relations. In his apostolic letter Maximum Illud Benedict XV reminds missionaries that Christianity must not be presented as the religion of a foreign nation. The relevance of his warning is evident in the contemporary Chinese context where Christianity is widely seen as a foreign religion while Confucianism is understood to be a native cultural tradition. For the sake of the missio ad gentes, it is argued that Catholic missionaries should engage the Confucian tradition in intercultural dialogue. The paper then evaluates three main responses to religious pluralism, namely relativism, assimilation and interculturality. The paper ends with some brief remarks on the efforts at intercultural dialogue with China by a Catholic higher education institution in Macau.

    Keywords: Three Teachings, religious pluralism, intercultural dialogue, Maximum Illud, Macau, China

  • Franz Gassner


    A Synod is as old as the Church itself. The concept originates from Greek σύνοδος, literally, “coming together,” “joint way”, “assembly”, “concourse”. Following the inspiration by the Holy Spirit, it is the proper answer to address major challenges, e.g., the admission of gentiles (Jerusalem 50 A.D.), the nature of Jesus Christ (Nicaea 325 AD), or the role of Mother Mary in the history of Salvation (Ephesus 431 AD). For the whole of China, as late as 1924 a First National Synod has been convened to deliberate and decide about major issues of inculturation of faith and sinification of the universal Church. Convened by the Apostolic Delegate Celso Costantini in Shanghai 1924, it responded to Pope Benedicts XV’s urgent mission directive Maximum Illud (1919) during a time of dramatic and historical transitions in China.1

    Keywords: China, colonialism, Celso Costantini, Maximum Illud, Mission and Politics, Synod of Shanghai, inculturation, sinification.

    I express gratitude to Prof. Leo Leeb for his inspiration and encouragement to write this article and for his permission to use his English translations from Latin of selected Articles of the Synod of Shanghai 1924.

View All Issues

Orientis Aura: Macau Perspectives in Religious Studies has the support of the Macau Diocese and Macau Foundation