Cardinal Zen appeals for prayers for persecuted Christians in China

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Joseph Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong requests prayers for the persecuted Christians of China (photo by Dominic Barrios)

Joseph Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong requests prayers for the persecuted Christians of China (photo by Dominic Barrios)

CEBU City, Jan. 25, 2016 – Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun SDB, appealed to delegates of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress to remember in their prayers the persecuted Christians especially those in his homeland of China.

Reflecting on the catechesis presented by Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte, OFM, DD, on the congress theme “Christ in You, Our Hope of Glory”, Cardinal Zen says that it is fortunate that the IEC delegates heard about “the message, the mission to proclaim and witness the suffering.”

Cardinal Zen noted that when the faithful gathered at the Opening Mass prayed for the persecuted Christians in the Middle East and in African countries, he asked that the Christians of China be also remembered.

“They [Chinese Christians] are still in deep waters, in burning fire, a terrible reality.”

The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong said his presence in the international gathering is to show “how our martyrs in China in recent history give splendid witness to Jesus.” He alluded to the fact that he was called to give a testimony during the morning session of the second day of the IEC.

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

“They [Chinese Christians] believe in Him as their redeemer, the One who died on the cross, who renews his supreme sacrifice on the Cross in the Eucharist, the one who gives the fullness of His Spirit, and so introduced us into an abundant life, a life of love and of glory.”

The outspoken critic of the Communist government of China said Chinese Christians continue to suffer religious persecutions in the mainland.

He recalled how “the atheist regime” introduced into the educational system an indoctrination to the communist ideology training the children to have an eventual “disdain of religion and particularly of the Church.”

But he said there is a hope that even though the “church in China became a silent church, fortunately, the silence is not immediately complete.”

He recalled how the “regime” thought that the indoctrination was complete, a meeting among the teachers, students and principals was called to denounce the foreign missionaries and the papal nuncio”  as “imperialists” and so demand their expulsion from the country.

“When the assembly was asked to raise their hands in approval, a young priest, who camouflaged as a representative of one of the Salesian schools, calmly stood up and declared ‘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.’, he shared.

He said the whole assembly was shocked at the public display of the priest’s faith but it also “awakened” the people.

“That lonely voice caused the shock,” he said.

The cardinal added that the priest and his confreres “disappeared that day”.  He said the priests died in prison.

He also recalled the “big persecution” of September 8, 1955 in Shanghai where more than a thousand Christians among them the late Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei and hundreds of priests were rounded up and arrested for refusing to cooperate with the Communist government and be under the government approved Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association.

During the public trial, the bishop was accused of “all sorts of crimes”.  When the bishop was asked to confess his sins, while his hands were tied behind his back, the bishop shouted in the microphone “Long live Christ the King”.  Cardinal Zen said there was “from the crowd some timid voice” which was then joined by the entire crowd shouting: “Long live Christ the King! Long live our bishop!”

“It was certainly the courage coming from the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Kung Pin-Mei was eventually created cardinal in pectore by St. John Paul II in 1979.  A pope declares a cardinal in pectore, Latin for in the heart, to protect the nominated cardinal and his congregation, if they are in a hostile situation. Kung Pin-Mei learned of his appointment in 1998 during a private meeting with the Pope in Vatican City in 1988, and his membership in the College of Cardinals made public in 1991. The cardinal died in exile in the Stamford, Connecticut in 2000.

Cebu archbishop Jose Palma said that Cardinal Zen reminds us that “faith is a gift and it has many dimensions.”

“Listening to him makes me feel how privileged we are that we can practice our faith, without the threat of martyrdom because martyrdom is very real to some people,” he said.

Fr. Jose Quilongquilong, SJ a member of the International Theological Commission, reflecting on the testimony of the cardinal, said that to simply proclaim the faith is not enough.  “It is to be lived out,” he said.

“Cardinal Zen showed through his testimony how the Chinese Christians continue to live out the faith in the midst of the continuing persecution.”

Palma, the chairman of the National IEC Committee, noted that some Filipinos may take practicing the Faith for granted, noting how easy Mass is available. “We have so many opportunities yet it is also true that we become very complacent, we can take things for granted.”

“People should be truly grateful, should be truly happy for this privilege and should really live out this privilege,” he said.

Cardinal Zen said our belief that the Church is the communion of the faithful, the Mystical Body of Christ, unites us spiritually and should encourage us to support one another thru prayer.

“Our prayers especially our adoration of the Eucharistic Lord will give hope to these our brothers and sisters and after the cross there is the resurrection, after the tribulations, there will be glory and joy eternal,” he said.

In an earlier press briefing, Palma lamented how some Christians were unable to register for the IEC due their “communist” government denying their applications to travel.

However, Chinese Christians from Hong Kong and Macau are present in the congress.  These two regions are “special administrative regions” or autonomous regions in China enjoying religious freedom unlike the rest in the mainland.  (Rommel Lopez / CBCPNews)

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