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Congress prays for Church in China

CEBU (SE): “Chinese Christians are still in deep water, in burning fire—a terrible reality,” the former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, said in a personal testimony at the Eucharistic Congress being celebrated in Cebu, The Philippines, on January 25.

He said that when he saw a prayer for the suffering and persecuted Christians of the Middle East and African countries listed for the opening Mass, he made a request that China be remembered as well.

Cardinal Zen said that he believes that the purpose of his presence at the congress is to show to the wider Church how the martyrs of recent history in China give splendid witness to Jesus.

“But who most deserve to be called witnesses?” he asked. “The witness to the truth that Christ is our hope of glory? I think they are the witnesses par excellence, the martyrs.”

He described how in the 1950s the Chinese government introduced Communist ideology into the educational system, giving children a disdain for religion and the Church.

“The Church in China became a silent Church, but fortunately, the silence is not immediately complete,” he reflected.

He recalled that the once, when the regime thought the indoctrination process had succeeded, at a meeting among teachers, students and principals called to denounce foreign missionaries and the papal nuncio as imperialists, a young Salesian priest stood and said, “It is not allowed for us to declare ourselves against the Church, against the pope, against the successor of St. Peter, against who represents Christ in our Church.”

Cardinal Zen described the lonely voice as causing a shock and awakening the people, but sadly, the priests and the people disappeared that day and the priests later died in prison.

He also recalled the big persecution of 8 September 1955 in Shanghai, where more than 1,000 Christians, among them the late Ignatius Cardinal Kung Pin-mei and hundreds of priests were rounded up and arrested for refusing to cooperate with the government and join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

Cardinal Zen told how at a public trial, the archbishop of Shanghai was accused of all sorts of crimes and asked to confess his sins, while his hands were tied behind his back.

But he shouted into the microphone, “Long live Christ the king.” Then the momentum grew, as one timid voice repeated his words and gave courage to the whole crowd to voice, “Long live Christ the king! Long live our bishop!”

Cardinal Zen added, “It was certainly courage coming from the Holy Spirit.”

Cardinal Zen said that listening to Archbishop José Palma say that faith is a gift and it has many dimensions, left him feeling how privileged we are to be able to practice our faith without the threat of martyrdom, because martyrdom is extremely real to some people.

Archbishop Palma pointed out that some Filipinos may take practicing the faith for granted, noting how easily Mass is available. “We have so many opportunities, yet it is also true that we become very complacent, we can take things for granted,” he said.

Archbishop Palma commented that some people were unable to register for the congress, because their governments had refused them permission to travel.


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