John Gabriel Perboyre


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Martyr in China (1802–40).

The oldest child of a devout family from Peuch (Montauban), from the age of fifteen he wanted to be a missionary and joined the Congregation of the Lazarists in 1818. He was ordained priest in 1826, performed well in theology, was appointed rector of the minor seminary, then (in Paris) assistant novice-master. In 1835 he was sent, at his own repeated request, to the mission in China.

He reached Macao in August, studied Chinese for four months, and joined the Hunan mission. There he rescued abandoned children, and taught them Christianity as well as other subjects. Wearing a long pig-tail and eating with chopsticks, he went some way on the road to ‘inculturation’, favoured by some missionaries then and now. This however was not to be, as in September 1839 there was an unexplained renewal of persecution. John was taken in chains from one local ruler to another, refused to stamp on the cross or reveal the whereabouts of other missionaries, and was tortured twenty times, including being branded on the face. In 1840 he was placed on a cross and finally strangled. He was beatified in 1889 and canonized in 1996 by Pope John Paul II. Feast: 11 September.

Lives by G. de Montgesty (1905, Eng. tr. 1925), A. Chatelet (1943); see also Bibl. SS., x. 484; B.L.S., ix. 104–5.

Subjects: Christianity.

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