Saint Gabriel Taurin Dufresse

Aug 10, 2021 / Written by: Tonia Long

Feast September 14

Birth: 1750 – Death: 1815
Bishop and Martyr, Missionary to China

Gabriel Taurin Dufresse, of Lezoux, France, was ordained a priest of the Society for Foreign Missions of Paris at the age of twenty-four.

In 1776 he arrived in China to undertake his missionary labors in the country's Szechwan Province. The renewed persecution of Chinese Christians in 1784 led to Father Dufresse's arrest. He soon escaped from prison and was taken in by a Chinese Catholic family.

In obedience to his religious superior, Fr. Dufresse subsequently surrendered himself to the pagan authorities after an auxiliary bishop instructed all the priests staying with families to turn themselves in rather than expose their hosts to the danger of arrest. Father Dufresse was imprisoned and then exiled to Macao.

Memorial Plaque of Chinese Martyrs
Memorial plaque for the 120 Martyr Saints of China at Saint Francis Xavier Church (Ho Chi Minh City)

In 1789 he managed to return to Szechwan Province. In the years that followed, his missionary labors were blessed with increasing success. In 1800 he was consecrated an auxiliary bishop and appointed apostolic vicar of Szechwan, and in 1803, at a time of relative peace, he presided over the first synod in China. This synod would have great importance for the future development of the Chinese church.

The resumption of intense anti-Christian persecution in 1805 put Bishop Dufresse in so much danger that he had to change his place of residence almost daily. A decree in 1811 condemned to death all leaders of European religions and in 1815 Dufresse’s identity was discovered.

In May of 1815, he was re-captured. Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop Dufresse to his martyrdom on September 14, 1815 at Chengdu, Sichuan, China. The Chinese soldier was so inspired by Bishop Dufresse that he himself was baptized and became a priest. Later, he was martyred together with 119 companions for their faith in Jesus. Their feast day is on 9 July.

Sentenced to death by beheading, St. Gabriel Taurin Dufresse earned the crown of martyrdom on September 14, 1815. The saintly bishop’s head was attached to a pole and his body left exposed for three days as a warning to others. This body was later buried by local Christians.

Chinese horrors and persecutions of the Christians.
Chinese horrors and persecutions of the Christians.

Pope Leo XIII declared him as venerable on 2 July 1899 and beatified him on 27 May 1900. He was Canonized by Pope John Paul II on October 1, 2000.

Header Image: Saint Gabriel Taurin Dufresse on a map of the area where missionary work was done in China and drawn up shortly after Saint Dufresse’s martyrdom (1871).