Italian priest who translated the Bible into Chinese will be beatified
The Italian Franciscan priest, Father Gabriele Maria Allegra, who translated the entire Bible into Chinese for the first time, will be beatified in the Cathedral in Acireale, Sicily, on September 29. The beatification of the man known as “the Saint Jerome of China” will take place ten years after Pope John Paul II first recognized a miracle through his intercession in 2002.
Father Gabriele Maria Allegra
Father Allegra will be the first person from the Hong Kong diocese and from the Franciscan province of Taiwan-Hong Kong to be so honored by the Church, UCA News, which first broke the news, reported. Born “Giovanni Stefano Allegra” in San Giovanni la Punta, in the province of Catania, Sicily, in 1907, the future blessed friar entered the Franciscan minor seminary in Acireale in 1918, and the order’s novitiate in Bronte in 1923. Three years later he was sent to Rome to study at the Franciscan’s International College. In 1928, Allegra felt inspired to devote his entire life to the translation of the Bible into Chinese.
After being ordained priest in 1930, he set sail for China. He arrived in Hunan, southern China, in July 1931 and there started studying Chinese and with the help of professors prepared a first draft translation around 1937. Due to fatigue, he had to return to Italy for 3 years, but there continued his biblical studies. He tried to return to Hunan in 1940 but could not do so due to the Sino-Japanese war and so had to go to Beijing. On that journey he lost his original draft translation and had to start all over again once he arrived in the Chinese capital. There, in 1945, he established the Franciscan Biblical Study Centre (Studium Biblicum Franciscanum), but when the Communists came to power in 1949 he and his team had to move to Hong Kong, where he lived for most of the rest of his life. On Christmas Day, 1968, Father Allegra, he achieved his life’s ambition when the first one-volume Bible was published in Chinese. Known as the “Studium Biblicum” version, that is still the main Chinese text today and is considered to be the most faithful to the original manuscript.
This great Franciscan died in Hong Kong in the year, 1976. It came as no surprise, however, when eight years later, in 1984, the local bishop (later cardinal), John Baptist Wu, opened the cause for his beatification. John Paul II declared Father Allegra “Venerable” in 1994, and next month he will become “Blessed”.