Maurice Tornay

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Maurice Tornay
Born (1910-08-31)31 August 1910
Rosière, Valais, Switzerland
Died 11 August 1949(1949-08-11) (aged 38)
Cho La, Sichuan, China
Venerated in Roman Catholic Church
Beatified 16 May 1993, Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
Feast 11 August
Attributes Augustinian habit
  • Missionaries
  • Persecuted Christians

Blessed Maurice Tornay (31 August 1910 – 11 August 1949) was a Swiss Roman Catholic priest of the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine – of the Hospitallers of Saint Nicholas and Grand-St-Bernard of Mont Joux branch – who served as part of the missions in China and Tibet.[1] He fought against anti-religious sentiment in the Tibetan area and was killed while he travelled to meet with the Dalai Lama.[2]

He was beatified – on 16 May 1993 – after Pope John Paul II confirmed that the late priest had been killed "in odium fidei" ('in hatred of the faith').[3][4]


Maurice Tornay was born in Valais in Switzerland on 31 August 1910 as the seventh of eight children to Jean-Joseph Tornay and Faustina Dossier.[2] Two sisters were Josephine and Anna while a brother of his was Louis.[1] He was baptized on 13 September 1910 and made his First Communion in 1917.[2]

His childhood saw signs of deposition to a pious life and one based on doing the work of God.[3] On one particular evening his mother told him and his sister Anna of the life of Saint Agnes.[1] In 1925 he commenced high school at Saint Maurice and was there until 1931. In his free time he took friends to the chapel where he would read them passages from the works of Saint Francis de Sales and Saint Thérèse of Lisieux's journal. He wrote to a provost to request admittance to the Canons Regular and he was admitted into the novitiate on 25 August 1931.[1]

After a team of missionaries left for China in January 1933 he was disappointed that he did not have his chance to go with them. He was diagnosed with a stomach ulcer in January 1934 and had to follow a special diet – he would skip this diet while in the missions; this also prompted an operation and a subsequent period of rest. He had recovered enough to make his vows on 8 September 1935.[1] In 1936 he requested once more to be assigned to the missions in China – and left alongside Cyrille Lattion (1909–1997) and Nestor Rouiller – and spent a month and a half before arriving in China. In Weixi in Yunnan he completed his theological studies and his studies in local languages.[3] To his brother Louis he sent a letter stating: "I will never return". He and his three companions also underwent courses with a doctor and a dentist.[4]

The path to the priesthood was now open for him and he travelled for over two weeks to Hanoi in Vietnam where he received ordination on 24 April 1938 from Bishop François Chaize; he wrote to his parents: "Your son is a priest!".[1] He then received the task of teaching seminarians in Houa-Lo-Pa. In March 1945 saw him appointed as the parish priest of Yerkalo in southeast Tibet. He braved the dangers of the Buddhists who were not fond of Christian missionaries or of Christians in general.

The local lamas broke into his residence on the morning of 26 January 1946 and confiscated the church while forcing him into exile. He took up brief residence in Pame, China, (with an old drunkard) and learned of the anti-religious situation back in his parish from parishioners who came in through Pame on business.[3] The lamas threatened him with death if he did not break off contact with his old parish while in May 1946 he received a letter from the Governor of Chamado who promised protection and inviting the priest to return to his parish. But on 6 May 1946 he set off though Gun-Akhio stopped him: "Stop! You are forbidden to go further". He asked the apostolic nuncio Antonio Riberi for his assistance and the latter advised him to meet with the 14th Dalai Lama.[4]

He decided that he would travel to Lhasa to seek an audience with the latter to ask him for an edict of tolerance that would protect the regional Christians.[4] On 10 July 1949 he joined a caravan of merchants and undertook the trip that would last two months and he shaved his beard and put on a Tibetan dress to avoid detection though was recognized during a brief stop.[1] He was forced to leave the caravan though managed to rejoin it and said to his companion Doci: "We must not be afraid ... We will die for the Christians".[4]

Four armed lamas burst from the bush in the Tothong forest which prompted the priest to speak with them: "Don't shoot! Let's talk!" but two shots rang out and Doci was shot dead. More shots killed the priest on 11 August 1949.[1] His remains were buried though transferred in 1985.[2]


The beatification process opened in the two cities of Kangding and Sion in an informative process that opened in 1953 and concluded its business on 31 March 1963 while being titled as a Servant of God at the onset of the process. His spiritual writings received the approval of theologians on 5 January 1965 while an apostolic process was later held; the Congregation for the Causes of Saints validated these processes on 27 April 1990.

The dossier – known as the Positio – was submitted to Rome in 1990 for assessment which allowed for theologians to meet on 28 February 1992 to approve the cause while the cardinal and bishop members followed suit on 16 June 1992. Pope John Paul II approved the fact that the slain priest was killed in hatred of his Christian faith which allowed for the pope to preside over his 16 May 1993 beatification.

The current postulator of the cause is the Rev. Emilio Dunoyer.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Spiritual Newsletter". Abbey of Saint-Joseph de Clairval. 31 July 2005. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Blessed Mauritius Tornay, August 11". The Black Cordelias. 11 August 2009. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  3. ^ a b c d "Bl. Maurice Tornay". Catholic Online. Retrieved 30 July 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e "Blessed Mauritius (Maurice) Tornay". Santi e Beati. Retrieved 30 July 2016.

External links

  • Hagiography Circle
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