In December of 1959, the Vatican convened a historic week-long conference in Manila, Philippines, on the subject of the future of the Catholic Church and religion in general in East Asia.
Chaired by Gregorio Cardinal Agagianian, the meeting hosted about 100 Catholic bishops, papal representatives, prefects apostolic, and others from many nations in East Asia and Oceania, to discuss matters such as Catholic charity, vocations, education, and lay participation in their regions.
Four Columban bishops of East Asia were in attendance at the Manila conference: Harold W. Henry of Kwangju, Korea, Patrick H. Cronin of Ozamis, Philippines, Thomas Quinlan of Chunchon, Korea and Henry C. Byrne of Iba, Philippines.
One matter about which the conference attendees deliberated at length was the growth of international communism in East Asia and the threat that it posed to organized religion. This question was undoubtedly on the mind of the Columban bishops at the conference.
About a decade had passed since the communist takeover of China, and about five years since the expulsion of the last Columban (Father W. Aedan McGrath) from the original Columban mission country.
In fact, many of the 1959 issues of The Far East magazine contain articles about the situation for religion in China, including the recent formation of a puppet “Patriotic Church” in that nation.
The 1959 Manila conference and the Columban articles from 1959 on the subject of East Asia rekindled the Columban interest in China.
Although it would take several decades, this set the stage for the return of the Columbans to China in the late twentieth century.