Thursday, March 16, 2023

Blessed Gabriele Allegra, 1907 - 1976, translator of the Bible into Chinese

At 18 I transferred from Manchester College to the University of Illinois. A private dorm, McKinley Hall, was recommended to me by a high school friend who was living in a sorority house. (Details are important in serendipity that changes your life.) The housemother knew I was taking Spanish, but didn't know that Brazilians spoke Portuguese, so she matched me with a young woman from Brazil as a roommate.  That's how I met my Chinese roommate, Dora Lee.  Her family had fled mainline China when the Communists took over and moved to Brazil.  Most of her many siblings had since relocated to the U.S. for college and jobs. And since 1958, I've always enjoyed learning about Chinese language, culture and history.

So, this morning I read about Blessed Gabriele Allegra in the March issue of Magnificat, and it piqued my curiosity. While he was in seminary he learned about a 14th century bishop who had begun a translation of the Bible into Chinese, and from that day he decided that was his calling. By 1937, he had a first draft, but it was lost due to the Chinese civil war, so he started over and a full Chinese Bible was published in 1968. In addition, he was a scholar in other areas, and helped and served the poor and diseased (particularly lepers).

Most of my life as a Lutheran I've heard about Martin Luther's achievement of translating the Latin Vulgate into the vernacular German, however he had at least 18 other translations, some predating his achievement by 100 years plus much scholarship to aid his efforts.  It looks like Giovanni Allegra first had to learn Chinese and then how to translate it (I don't know which dialect).

The cause for his canonization was started in 1984 by Bishop John Wu in Hong Kong, 8 years after his death. He was declared venerable by the Holy See in 1994 and his decree of beatification was promulgated in 2002. He was the only scripture scholar to be beatified by Pope John Paul II.

Saint Who? Magnificat, v. 24, no. 13, p, 207

For Dora's bio and a peek at her fabulous fiber art: DORA HSIUNG — gallery twist

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