No. 5 (2020): Maximum Illud

Minimising Maximum Illud: Early Resistance to Missionary Inculturation in China

Cyril J. Law (劉偉傑)
University of Saint Joseph

Published 2022-04-25 — Updated on 2023-06-06

How to Cite

Law (劉偉傑) C. J. (2023). Minimising Maximum Illud: Early Resistance to Missionary Inculturation in China. Orientis Aura: Macau Perspectives in Religious Studies, (5), 7–22. Retrieved from


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