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  • Il Beato P. Gabriele M. Allegra: Dall’Italia alla Cina by Vittorio De Marco
  • Gail King
Il Beato P. Gabriele M. Allegra: Dall’Italia alla Cina. By Vittorio De Marco. (Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana. 2014. Pp. 310. €20,00 paperback. ISBN 978-88-209-9390-0.)

This book is a scholarly biography of Gabriele M. Allegra, O.F.M. (1907–76), who was beatified on September 29, 2012. One of eight children born to pious Sicilian parents, he entered seminary at an early age and soon felt the call to be a missionary to China. After study at the Franciscan College of St. Anthony in Rome, he was ordained in 1930.

In 1615 Pope Paul VI granted permission to the Jesuit missionaries in China to translate the Bible into literary Chinese, but the Jesuits chose instead to place their priorities on catechetical and apologetic works that included translations of portions of the Bible. In the late-seventeenth century Jean Basset, M.E.P. (1662–1707), completed a partial translation of the New Testament, and in the eighteenth century, Louis de Poirot, S.J. (1735–1813), did a nearly complete translation of the Bible into Chinese, but it was not published until this century (Taibei, 2013). Hence, when Allegra was in his seminary studies in the early-twentieth century, there was still no printed Catholic translation into Chinese of the Bible (a Protestant translation was completed by 1854). Dedicating himself to this work, Allegra studied Hebrew; commenced learning Chinese upon his arrival in Hengyang, China, in 1931; and in 1935 began translating the Bible into Chinese. Health problems necessitated his recuperation in Italy from 1939 to 1941, but he soon resumed his scripture studies. Following his return to China, he took up the translation work again. Allegra founded the Studium Biblicum institute, first located in Beijing in 1945 and subsequently moved to Hong Kong in 1948. He and his Chinese collaborators completed their ten-volume translation of the Bible into Chinese, accompanied by scholarly and explanatory notes, in 1966. A one-volume version of the Bible was published in 1968, and a Chinese Bible dictionary in 1975. [End Page 969] In all of his translation work, Allegra’s goal was to produce a translation for the people of God, elegant but readable.

Allegra’s contribution in translating the Bible into Chinese is the best-known and most-documented aspect of his life. A lesser known facet was his work among the poor and outcast of society, especially in the leper colony in Macau. The inclusion of this aspect of his life, plus attention to his devout faith and spiritual life, result in a rounded portrait of this man on his way to sainthood.

The biography is organized chronologically into nine main sections after the introduction: I. Early Formation (1918–1931), II. Arrival and Beginning of His Apostolate in China (1931–1939), III. Stage Two (1940–1945), IV. The Studium Biblicum (1945–1948), V. Early Years in Hong Kong (1949–1955), VI. His Experience in Singapore, VII. The Vatican Council, VIII. Final Years, and IX. A Profile of Father Allegra’s Spirituality. The book provides extensive documentary footnotes but no list of sources or bibliography. [End Page 970]

Gail King
Brigham Young University


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