Lo Wen-tsao, baptized in 1633 by a Franciscan, Antonio de Santa Maria, was the first Franciscan convert in China. Later to be known as Gregorio Lopez, he studied in Manila, was admitted to the Dominican order and in 1656 was ordained the first Chinese priest on record. The French vicar apostolic, Francois Pallu, a missionary of the newly formed Societe des Missions-Etrangeres, proposed that a native secular clergy should be rapidly built up, with a native episcopate under supervision of the foreign vicars apostolic. Rome did not agree but did accede to his proposal that Lopez be appointed successor to the French missionary Cotolendi (who had died on his way out to China) as vicar apostolic of Nanking. Lopez modestly declined, but in 1679 a papal decree ordered him to accept.
His own superior, the head of the Dominicans in China, gave his consent on condition that a “wise and learned” Dominican missionary serve as counselor to the new bishop because the Dominicans, who later opposed the Jesuits’ leniency on the practice of Chinese ancestral rites, were concerned that Lopez would compromise the strict Dominican position. Because he would not accept missionary supervision, Lopez was refused consecration at Manila. His consecration was finally consummated in Canton in 1685, by the Italian Franciscan, Bernardino della Chiesa, who was vicar apostolic. Lopez was well past 70.
This article is reprinted from Biographical Dictionary of Christian Missions, Macmillan Reference USA, copyright (c) 1998 Gerald H. Anderson, by permission of The Gale Group; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Benno M. Biermann, Die Anfange der neueren Dominikanermission in China (1927); Adrien Launay, Histoire general de la Societe des Missions-Etrangeres (1894); A. C. Moule, “The Life of Gregorio Lopez.” New China Review 1 (1919): 480-488.