Persecution of Irish Priests in China: Letter from Bishop Edward Galvin (1952)


Bishop Edward Galvin was a co-founder of the Maynooth Mission to China (known today as the Columbans) in 1916 and was the first Bishop of Hanyang. On 19th September 1952 he was expelled from China by the new communist government and was deported to British Hong Kong, whence he wrote the following letter. It is dated 1st October 1952 and was sent to the Very Rev. Timothy Connolly, the Superior General of the Maynooth Mission to China at St Columban’s College, Dalgan Park, Navan, Co. Meath.

Dear Father Connolly,

Let me thank you very sincerely for your cablegram of good wishes. I heard the sentence of expulsion on the morning of September 15 at police headquarters in Hankow. I was then taken back to my own city of Hanyang under escort and held there in my rooms under strict supervision until the afternoon of the 17th, when I was moved back to police headquarters in Hankow, put on board a train in Wuchang shortly before midnight and escorted by three policemen to the Hong Kong border, where I crossed on the 19th. There I was met by Father McNamara.

The Internuncio to China, Monsignor Riberi, who also lives in this haven of hospitality, and who has been very kind, has asked me to write the story of my expulsion and I am trying to do it, though still very tired.

“You have been called here”, said the Chief of Police to me in Hankow, “to be informed that the Government of China has decided to expel you from the country and that you are to leave Wuhan within three days. The charges against you are these:

“You have opposed and obstructed the establishment of an Independent Church in China; you have brought into being a reactionary organisation called the Legion of Mary; you have engaged in anti-patriotic propaganda; you have disobeyed the orders of the Government; you have destroyed the property of the people. During the three days given to you to prepare for departure you are to make no inflammatory talks to anyone whatsoever: you are to observe strictly the directives of the Government, which will be made known to you from time to time; you are not to destroy any property either in your own room or in your Mission compound.”

In reply to a question from me, the Chief of Police made it clear that I had not been called to headquarters to ask questions or to make explanations, but to listen to the sentence of the Government.

Father Joseph Crossan takes charge of Hanyang diocese now, in accordance with the general instructions for such emergencies received by the Bishops of China from Rome. Fr Paul Higgins is with Father Crossan in Hanyang city and Father Hugh Sands is still in his up-country parish of Shinti.

Please ask the members of our Society and all our Mission friends to pray for the Church in China. I think its real testing time is at hand.

Sincerely yours,


See also: The Maynooth Mission to China (1920) and the 1966 report of the Columbans to the Irish hierarchy on their 50th anniversary

Posted on January 14, 2014, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Having just read the biography of Bishop Galvin, The Laquered Red Gate, I salute the heroism and dedication of these great missionaries.
    Would that the Catholic Church once again take seriously the mandate to spread the good news.

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