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Charles Thomas (lawyer)

Charles-Thomas Maillard De Tournon

Charles-Thomas Maillard De Tournon (1668-1710) was a Papal legate to India and China and Cardinal.

Biography

He was born of a noble Savoyard family at Turin on 21 December, 1668; died in confinement at Macau, 8 June, 1710. After graduating in canon and civil law he went to Rome where he gained the esteem of Clement XI, who on 5 December, 1701, appointed him legate a latere to Mughal India and imperial China. The purpose of this legation was to establish harmony among the missionaries there; to provide for the needs of these extensive missions; to report to the Holy See on the general state of the missions, and the labours of the missionaries and to enforce the decision of the Holy Office against the further toleration of the so-called Chinese rites among the native Christians. These rites consisted chiefly in offering sacrifices to Confucius and the ancestors, and in using the Chinese names tian (heaven) and shangdi (supreme emperor) for the God of the Christians. On 27 December, 1701, the pope consecrated Tournon bishop in the Vatican Basilica, with the title of Patriarch of Antioch.

The legate left Europe on the royal French vessel Murepas on 9 February, 1703, arriving at Pondicherry in India on 6 November, 1703. With greater zeal than prudence he issued a decree at this place on 23 June, 1704, summarily forbidding the missionaries under severe censures to permit the further practice of the Malabar rites. On 11 July, 1704, he set sail for China by way of the Philippine Islands, arriving at Macau in China, 2 April, and at Peking on 4 December, 1705. Emperor Kangxi received him kindly at first, but upon hearing that he came to abolish the Chinese rites among the native Christians, he demanded from all missionaries on pain of immediate expulsion a promise to retain these rites. At Rome the Holy Office had meanwhile decided against the rites on 20 November, 1704, and being acquainted with this decision, the legate issued a decree at Nanjing on 25 January, 1707, obliging the missionaries under pain of excommunication latae sententiae to abolish these rites. Hereupon, the emperor ordered Tournon to be imprisoned at Macau and sent some Jesuit missionaries to Rome to protest against the decree. Tournon died in his prison, shortly after being informed that he had been created cardinal on 1 August, 1707. Upon the announcement of his death at Rome, Clement XI highly praised him for his courage and loyalty to the Holy See and ordered the Holy Office to issue a Decree (25 September, 1710) approving the acts of the legate. Tournon's remains were brought to Rome by his successor, Carlo Ambroglio Mezzabarba, and buried in the church of the Propaganda Fide on 27 September, 1723.

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