Mary, the communion of saints and the Chinese veneration of ancestors

Date of Award


Degree Name

STD: Doctorate of Sacred Theology


International Marian Research Institute (in affiliation with the Marianum)


Advisor: Johann Roten


This dissertation of 408 pages includes illustrated photos and Chinese texts as appendices, and attempts to understand Mary's role in two ancient traditions and practices: Chinese ancestor veneration, a cultural practice; and the communion of saints, a Catholic theological doctrine. This research is one of the first in academic circles to compare this important aspect of Chinese culture with a key Catholic teaching. Therefore, the thrust and the novelty of this dissertation hopes to point out how Marian devotion can contribute to Chinese Catholics in the cultural practice of ancestor veneration as an important means of expressing filial piety. Complex as this theme may be, the methodology used is the principal method of: seeing critically; examining alternate sources; and evaluation (reconstruction). The methodology also includes other ways of doing theology, such as qualitative research for six case studies and the category of relationship for the reconstruction. Chinese cultural and religious traditions and texts are important alternate sources to consider, aside from the mainstream of Church documents, writings and scriptural readings. With rich variables at hand, the final chapter suggests ways of implementing Marian devotions thanks to Chinese ancestor veneration understood within the theological framework of the communion of saints. This dissertation unfolds in six major chapters with chapter seven offering an assessment, conclusion and recommendations. Chapters one through six are as follows: Chapter one outlines the rationale and the methodology chosen. Chapter two gives the historical background, including the 'Rites Crisis', and examines practices of Chinese Ancestor veneration as a cultural, filial-piety tradition. The chapter also clarifies differences between ancestor worship as a cultural phenomenon, and the Catholic understanding of the communion of saints as a religious phenomenon. Chapter three, using the qualitative method, extensively proves that Chinese ancestor veneration is considered important within Chinese Catholic families and clans. Chapter four explores the concept of communion as a model in ecclesiology and in reference to the saints. Chapter five focuses on Mary's role in the communion of saints and Chinese ancestor veneration by outlining their differences and similarities. Chapter five reconstructs the rich variables in the category of relationship, as an anthropological approach. The sixth chapter suggests ways and means of implementing Marian devotions in the liturgy in reference to the communion of saints and Chinese ancestor veneration. For evangelization and pastoral work in Asia, there is food for thought illustrated in three models of relationship: the first model, hierarchical, the second, communion, and the third, a vision of the evolution and journeying together to the end point that is the Reign of God, in one single family and clan.


Mary, Blessed Virgin, Saint Devotion to China, Ancestor worship China, Communion of saints

Rights Statement

Copyright © 2010, author