Jin, I knew, had received his doctorate from the Gregorian with the very highest honors. But based upon the travels documented in his passport's pages -- travels that took place while he was excelling at a notoriously difficult academic program -- it appeared that Jin, like the generations of study-abroad
students who followed him, had spent his days traveling rather than studying. This didn't completely surprise. As I'd learnt over the years, the bishop was
a social man, with a puckish sense of humor, and a genuine travel bug. Indeed, as soon as he was free to travel in the mid-1980s, he roamed the world
(except for Rome, where he was prohibited from going). Yet, despite ample opportunity to follow other leading Chinese Catholics into exile (especially
those who had spent substantial time in prison), Jin always returned home to what he referred to as "my Catholics."
Several weeks after purchasing Jin's passport, I arranged to return it to him personally at his office. He was happy to receive it, and as we chatted he
paged through the document, presumably reliving -- briefly -- the travels of his much younger self, a time when he was free and healthy enough to roam. I
asked what he recalled of those travels. "I made many European friends," he told me. "Some are still my friends." He wasn't making small talk: the young
priests and other officials he befriended as a young man in the 1940s became the experienced priests, bishops, and cardinals who would defend him and his
actions to the Vatican when -- as an older man in the 1980s -- he accepted a government appointment to be bishop without Papal approval. It was a painful
decision for Jin, a Roman-educated Jesuit who revered the Church. "But if I did not become bishop then the government would choose somebody less friendly."
If such words weren't accompanied by acts, they might seem like faint rationalizations. But actions, too, helped Jin with the Vatican, and John Paul II
who, according to two sources, felt a kinship for the Chinese bishop based upon his own experiences as a bishop in Communist Krakow. Surely, the Pope and
his advisors were impressed by the Catholic publishing house Jin established in Shanghai, complete with an imported German printing press, and Jin's own
translation of the New Testament as its first run (hundreds of thousands of copies have been printed over the years). Around the same time, Jin installed
Chinese-language masses into Shanghai-area churches against the wishes of the authorities, who preferred Latin and other languages that couldn't be
understood. Within five years, Shanghai's liturgy was used in Catholic churches across China, including a Prayer for the Pope that Jin received permission
to implement (and publish in missals) after multiple visits to Beijing.
Jin's legacy in Shanghai is uncertain. His chosen successor as bishop, Xing Wenzhi, reportedly resigned in December 2011 and has not spoken publicly of his
reasons. The next successor, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, publicly renounced the Catholic Patriotic Association, a government-run Catholic oversight organization, at
his ordination, and has been confined to the seminary ever since. Nonetheless, Jin's legacy in China, as represented by the hundreds of priests and the 12
bishops he educated, the liturgy he spurred, and the Bibles he published, runs far deeper and longer than what he may or may not have left behind in his
beloved home city. It is, rather, a legacy of hard-earned, and hard-to-uproot religious freedom under a Communist Party that's never expressed an interest
in fostering any.