Born in Niederlahnstein, Germany. After his studies, Vath was sent by his firm (Bayer) to China in the 1920s as a businessman. There he gained experience and success in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and other cities. In 1948 he resigned from his business career and joined the Beda College in Rome for his philosophical and theological studies, where he was ordained a priest in Mar 1952. In the same year, he returned to Hong Kong and was appointed director of the Catholic Center.
Vath supervised all of the center’s activities with care, finding the present permanent location in the Grand Building. In Jul 1953 he started an emergency assistance scheme, which gradually grew into Caritas-Hong Kong. In Jan 1961 he was honored with the title of monsignor.
In the same year, he left the directorship of the Catholic Center to become bishop’s delegate for all the cultural, social, and charitable services of the diocese, as president of Caritas-Hong Kong. He not only enlarged the services of Caritas in many social fields with the help of local resources (contributing to its rapid growth), but also, being the Far Eastern representative of Misereor, the German Catholic bishops’ social aid agency, he had to be always on the move to examine and control its several projects, despite his intermittently ill health.
In 1968 Vath was asked to take up the responsibilities of Misereor all over the world. When he returned to Germany, Caritas was an organization well established, managed by competent personnel, and much appreciated by all the people of Hong Kong.
In 1972 he was elected president of Caritas Internationalis, a post he kept until he succumbed to cancer in 1974. He died in Kraneuchal, Germany.
This article is reproduced, with permission, from A Dictionary of Asian Christianity, copyright 2001 by Scott W. Sunquist, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan. All rights reserved.
- Caritas-Hong Kong, 40 Years of Partnership in Love and Service (1993).