“Not Every Martyr Becomes a Saint: Two German Missionary Martyrs (1897) of the Society of the Divine Word in China”

Zbigniew Wesołowski SVD:

Organizer: Fr. Dariusz Pielak SVD on the platform of the Vivat Deus Webinar


Shortly before midnight of November 1, 1897, two German missionaries of the Society of the Divine Word SVD), Frs. Richard Henle und Franz Xaver Nies, were murdered by a group of 20 to 30 Chinese members of the Big Swords Society. In history, this tragic event is known as the Juye Incident. It occurred in their confrere Fr. Georg Maria Stenz’s mission station in the village of Zhangjiazhuang. Less than two weeks after the Juye Incident, the German Empire used the murder of the missionaries as a pretext to seize Jiaozhou Bay on Shandong’s southern coast. Under German threats, the Qing government was also forced to remove many Shandong officials from their posts (including governor Li Bingheng 李秉衡) and to pay high reparations. Why did these two martyrs not become martyr saints in Catholic Church? The reason is that Nies and Henle’s martyrdom was – pitifully enough – immediately used politically by the German Empire to colonize a part of the Shandong province in China. In 2000, an article was published in German by Heinrich Walle with the ironic title “Märtyrer für den deutschen Flottenstützpunkt Tsingtau? − Die Ermordung der Patres Richard Henle SVD und Franz Xaver Nies SVD am 1. November 1897,” i.e., “Martyrs for the German Naval Base in Qingdao? The Murder of Fathers Richard Henle SVD and Franz Xaver Nies SVD on November 1, 1897” (my translation).