Ordained a priest in 1913, Zanin worked in various capacities, including as professor of theology and secretary to the bishop. In 1926 he worked in the Propaganda Fide Congregation (“Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples”) of the Vatican, and on 29 Nov 1933 the pope appointed him the second representative to China. He lived in the Vatican representative mansion built by his predecessor, Celso Costantini. At the beginning of 1935, Zanin founded the Chong Kuang Publishing Company (Lumen Agentia, or “Light News Agency”) mainly to disseminate the Chinese Catholic News, and in September he convened the first Catholic conference.
During the war, Zanin publicly exhorted Chinese Catholics (14 Mar 1939) “not to turn left nor right” (nec ad dexteram nec ad sinistram dec linantes)—tantamount to a neutral position in the face of Japanese aggression. The relationship between Pope Pius XII and President Jiang Jie Shi (Chiang Kai-shek) became closer as China’s victory drew near. In Jul 1946, the Vatican and the Jiang government established diplomatic ties and exchanged ambassadors. Antonio Riberi was appointed ambassador to China, and Zanin relinquished his position as Vatican representative to China. He left Shanghai on 10 Aug 1946, returned to the Vatican, and was appointed Vatican ambassador to Chile and, later, Argentina, where he died.
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.