Thomas Tien Ken-sin

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His Eminence

Thomas Tien Ken-hsin

Archbishop of Beijing
Ignatius Cardina Tin.jpg
Church Roman Catholic
Province Beijing
Term ended24 July 1967
PredecessorPaul Léon Cornelius Montaigne
Other postsCardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Via
Ordination9 June 1918
Consecration29 October 1939
Created cardinal18 February 1946
by Pope Pius XII
Rank Cardinal-Priest
Personal details
Born(1890-10-24)October 24, 1890
Chantsui, Yanggu, Shandong Province, Qing China
DiedJuly 24, 1967(1967-07-24) (aged 76)
Taipei, Taiwan
Buried Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Taipei
ParentsKilian Tien Ken-sin
Maria Yang
Previous post
  • Prefect of Yangku (1934–1939)
  • Vicar Apostolic of Yangku (1939–1942)
  • Vicar Apostolic of Qingdao (1942–1946)
  • Bishop of Qingdao (1946)
  • Titular Bishop of Ruspae (1939–1946)
Coat of arms Coat of arms of Thomas Tien Ken Sin.svg
Styles of
Thomas Tien Ken-sin
Coat of arms of Thomas Tien Ken Sin.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken styleYour Eminence
Informal style Cardinal

Thomas Tien Ken-sin, SVD (Chinese :田耕莘; pinyin :Tián Gēngxīn; October 24, 1890—July 24, 1967) was a Chinese Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church and chair of Fu Jen Catholic University. He served as Archbishop of Peking from 1946 until his death, and was elevated to the cardinalate in 1946 by Pope Pius XII.

Chinese language family of languages

Chinese is a group of related, but in many cases not mutually intelligible, language varieties, forming the Sinitic branch of the Sino-Tibetan language family. Chinese is spoken by the ethnic Chinese majority and many minority ethnic groups in China. About 1.2 billion people speak some form of Chinese as their first language.

Pinyin Chinese romanization scheme for Mandarin

Hanyu Pinyin, often abbreviated to pinyin, is the official romanization system for Standard Chinese in mainland China and to some extent in Taiwan. It is often used to teach Standard Mandarin Chinese, which is normally written using Chinese characters. The system includes four diacritics denoting tones. Pinyin without tone marks is used to spell Chinese names and words in languages written with the Latin alphabet, and also in certain computer input methods to enter Chinese characters.

Fu Jen Catholic University Catholic University in Taiwan

Fu Jen Catholic University is a top private university in Xinzhuang, New Taipei City, Taiwan. The university was founded in 1925 in Beijing as Fu Jen Academy, at the request of Pope Pius XI, and re-established in Taiwan in 1961 at the request of Pope John XXIII. Its name means "assistance" and "benevolence".


Background: The Church in China, 19391958

For centuries, access to the people of China was difficult for the Catholic Church, because as a Church, she did not recognize local Confucian customs of honouring deceased family members. To the Chinese, this was an ancient ritual, to the Holy See, it was a religious exercise, which conflicted with Catholic dogma. As a result of this and its foreign origin, the Church encountered much resistance in China. Within month of his election, Pope Pius XII issued a dramatic change in policies. On December 8, 1939, the Sacred Congregation of the Propagation of Faith issued at his request new instruction by which Chinese customs were considered not superstitious, but an honourable way of showing esteem for one's relatives and therefore permitted by Catholic Christians. [1] The Government of the Republic of China established diplomatic relations with the Holy See in 1943, within a short interval. The Papal degree changed the ecclesiastical situation in China in an almost revolutionary way. [2] As the Church began to flourish, Pius elevated China's status within the Church, established a local ecclesiastical hierarchy, and received the Archbishop of Peking, Thomas Tien Ken-sin SVD, into the College of Cardinals. [3]

Catholic Church Largest Christian church, led by the Bishop of Rome

The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the largest Christian church, with approximately 1.3 billion baptised Catholics worldwide as of 2017. As the world's oldest and largest continuously functioning international institution, it has played a prominent role in the history and development of Western civilisation. The church is headed by the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope. Its central administration is the Holy See.

Holy See Episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, Italy

The Holy See, also called the See of Rome, refers to the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Rome, known as the pope, which includes the apostolic episcopal see of the Diocese of Rome with universal ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the worldwide Catholic Church, as well as a sovereign entity of international law.

Dogma is an official system of principles or doctrines of a religion, such as Roman Catholicism, or the positions of a philosopher or of a philosophical school such as Stoicism.

After the Second World War, an estimated four million Chinese professed the Catholic faith. By 1948, the Catholic Church operated some 254 orphanages and 196 hospitals with 81,628 beds, carrying out a great deal of pastoral work throughout China. [4] While Catholics represented less than one percent of the population, they had increased dramatically. In 1949, there were in mainland China:

Orphanage residential institution devoted to the care of orphans

Historically, an orphanage was a residential institution, or group home, devoted to the care of orphans and other children who were separated from their biological families. Examples of what would cause a child to be placed in orphanages are when the biological parents were deceased, the biological family was abusive to the child, there was substance abuse or mental illness in the biological home that was detrimental to the child, or the parents had to leave to work elsewhere and were unable or unwilling to take the child. The role of legal responsibility for the support of children whose parent(s) have died or are otherwise unable to provide care differs internationally.

Hospital health care institution

A hospital is a health care institution providing patient treatment with specialized medical and nursing staff and medical equipment. The best-known type of hospital is the general hospital, which typically has an emergency department to treat urgent health problems ranging from fire and accident victims to a sudden illness. A district hospital typically is the major health care facility in its region, with many beds for intensive care and additional beds for patients who need long-term care. Specialized hospitals include trauma centers, rehabilitation hospitals, children's hospitals, seniors' (geriatric) hospitals, and hospitals for dealing with specific medical needs such as psychiatric treatment and certain disease categories. Specialized hospitals can help reduce health care costs compared to general hospitals. Hospitals are classified as general, specialty, or government depending on the sources of income received.

Apostolic prefecture missionary area not yet developed enough to become a diocese

An apostolic prefect or prefect apostolic is a priest who heads what is known as an apostolic prefecture, a 'pre-diocesan' missionary jurisdiction where the Catholic Church is not yet sufficiently developed to have it made a diocese. Although it usually has an (embryonal) see, it is often not called after such city but rather after a natural or administrative geographical area.

Missionary member of a religious group sent into an area to do evangelism

A missionary is a member of a religious group sent into an area to promote their faith or perform ministries of service, such as education, literacy, social justice, health care, and economic development. The word "mission" originates from 1598 when the Jesuits sent members abroad, derived from the Latin missionem, meaning "act of sending" or mittere, meaning "to send". The word was used in light of its biblical usage; in the Latin translation of the Bible, Christ uses the word when sending the disciples to preach The gospel in his name. The term is most commonly used for Christian missions, but can be used for any creed or ideology.

China Country in East Asia

China, officially the People's Republic of China, is a country in East Asia and the world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.404 billion in 2017. Covering approximately 9,600,000 square kilometers (3,700,000 sq mi), it is the third or fourth largest country by total area. Governed by the Communist Party of China, the state exercises jurisdiction over 22 provinces, five autonomous regions, four direct-controlled municipalities, and the special administrative regions of Hong Kong and Macau.

The establishment of Mao Zedong's communist regime in 1949 put these early advances on hold and led to the persecution of thousands of clergy and faithful in China. The losses in the following years were considerable. Some of the Catholic hierarchy, including the archbishops of Nanking and Peking, left the mainland and eventually made their way to Taiwan. In 1951, the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Riberi, was expelled, as were many foreign missionaries, who were accused of acting as agents of imperialist forces. Hundreds more Catholic clergy experienced increased supervision, frequent arrests and torture, and Catholic laypeople were under tremendous pressure to renounce their faith. The Holy See reacted with several encyclicals and apostolic letters, Cupimus Imprimis , Ad Apostolorum principis , and Ad Sinarum gentem (1954). [6]

Cupimus Imprimis is an apostolic letter of Pope Pius XII to all the faithful in China regarding their persecutions and the persecution of the Catholic Church.

Ad Apostolorum principis is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII on Communism and the Church in China. It describes systematic persecutions of bishops, priests, religious and faithful and the attempts of the government to establish a patriotic Catholic Church, independent of Rome.

Ad Sinarum gentem issued October 7, 1954, is an encyclical of Pope Pius XII to the Chinese people on the super-nationality of the Church.

In 1957, a schismatic Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, which does not recognize papal authority, was formed by the Chinese Communist Party. Bishops and priests who refused to join the Patriotic Association were imprisoned, forced to engage in degrading and exhaustive manual labor, and many were martyred in captivity.


Thomas Tien Ken-sin was born in Chantsui, Yanggu, (Shantung province) to Kilian Tien Ken-sin and his wife Maria Yang. Baptized in 1901, he studied at the seminary in Yenchowfu before being ordained to the priesthood by Bishop Augustin Henninghaus, on June 9, 1918. Tien then did pastoral work in the Yangku Mission until 1939. He entered the Society of the Divine Word on March 8, 1929 in the Netherlands, taking his first vows on February 2, 1931 and his final ones on March 7, 1935. He was raised to Apostolic Prefect of Yangku on February 2, 1934.

On July 11, 1939, Tien was appointed Apostolic Vicar of Yangku and Titular Bishop of Ruspae. He received his episcopal consecration on the following October 29 from Pope Pius XII himself, with Archbishops Celso Constantini and Henri Streicher, MAfr, serving as co-consecrators. Tien was later made Apostolic Vicar of Qingdao on November 10, 1942.

He was elevated to Cardinal Priest of Santa Maria in Via by Pope Pius XII in the consistory of February 18, 1946. Tien, the first cardinal from China, was then named, on April 11 of that same year, the first Archbishop of Beijing in post Yuan Dynasty China. [7] In 1951 he was exiled from China by the Communist regime, and spent this time in Illinois in the United States, to where he came that year for treatment of a heart ailment. [8] He was one of the cardinal electors who participated in the 1958 papal conclave, which selected Pope John XXIII, and was Apostolic Administrator of Taipei from December 16, 1959 to 1966. From 1962 to 1965, he attended the Second Vatican Council, and voted in the 1963 papal conclave, which selected Pope Paul VI.

Tien died in Taipei, at age 76. He is buried in the metropolitan cathedral of that same city.


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  1. Jan Olav Smit, Pope Pius XII, London, 1951, 186-187.
  2. Smit 188
  3. Smit 188.
  4. Herder Korrespondenz Orbis Catholicus, Freiburg, 5,1950, 201
  5. Alberto Giovannetti, Pio XII parla alla Chiesa del Silenzio, Milano, 1959, 230
  6. Giovannetti, 232
  7. See John of Montecorvino and Archbishop of Peking for further details.
  8. TIME Magazine. Red Hats February 11, 1957
  9. Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. The Great Upper Church
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Georg Weig
Vicar Apostolic of Qingdao
Elevated to diocese
New diocese Bishop of Qingdao Succeeded by
Augustin Olbert
Preceded by
Paul Léon Cornelius Montaigne
Archbishop of Beijing
Succeeded by
Joseph Li Shan
(recognized by the Holy See)
Preceded by
Joseph Kuo Joshih
(as archbishop)
Apostolic Administrator of Taipei
Succeeded by
Stanislaus Lo Kuang
(as archbishop)
Preceded by
Patrick Joseph Hayes
Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria in Via
Succeeded by
Paul Yoshigoro Taguchi
Preceded by
Joseph Louis Aldée Desmarais
Bishop of Ruspae
Succeeded by
J. Carroll McCormick