2002-03-17 These words that sound strange to us

March 17, 2002

An Shuxin, An Zhongliang, Han Dingxiang, Jia Zhiguo, Jiang Mingyuan, Li Side, Liu Guandong, Shi Enxiang, Su Zhimin, Xie Shiguang, Yang Shudao, Zeng Jongmu. Nothing has gone wrong with my computer. These words that sound strange to us, belong to the Chinese culture that was thousands of years old before our civilization began to breathe. They are the names of Chinese bishops now in prison for the Catholic faith, along with at least eighteen priests. Other bishops and priests have been martyred, like the recently murdered Father Yan Weiping in Beijing, and to the list the all-knowing God adds the ranks of laymen and women whom we cannot count. The Catholic Church has been forced underground in China, as in the days of the Roman persecutions, so virtually all of the millions of Chinese Catholics are suffering in heroic witness to Christ.

President Bush raised the issue of religious persecution during his recent trip to China. The official Chinese news agency censored his remarks. It was hardly mentioned in our own press, because those outside "the Household of Faith" find it awkward. As Henry VIII once did so has the Chinese government created a "Patriotic Church" which to the outward eye, and to that alone, is Catholic. The late Bishop Tang spent thirty years in prison, much of it in solitary confinement, by calling out at a show trial "No Pope, no Catholic Church." So did the late Cardinal Kung, for whom is named the Cardinal Kung Foundation headquartered in Connecticut, promoting information about the situation in China.

At all times, but especially in Lent and Holy Week, the Church prays for our suffering brothers and sisters in China, Sudan, the Middle and Far East. Last week, missile attacks forced the closing of the Catholic university in Bethlehem. Many are enrolled in the list of martyrs annually by the Holy See. Lamentable persecution unleashes many graces. The Church in our part of the world has been tempted to spiritual and moral softness, living remotely from such trials. A quick Hail Mary, a sporadic confession, a nonchalant dollar in the collection, would make us frail brethren of the martyrs. The liturgies of Holy Week, with their litanies for the persecuted, unite us with our Christian family members far away. They consider themselves blessed to be able to show their love in hard ways, and pray for us, that we may not grow weak by having it easier than they.

Fr. George W. Rutler

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