CEBU, Philippines - As religious persecution continues to rise in China, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, outspoken former bishop of Hong Kong, appealed to Catholics and Christians around the world to also pray for countries where religions and sects are state-controlled and where the Catholic Church is banned.
“Please don’t forget about China that is still in dead waters, burning fires… terrible reality,” he said during his “testimony” before thousands of International Eucharistic Congress yesterday.
“We believe our prayers, especially adoration of the Eucharist, will give hope to our brothers and sisters,” he said.
For about half an hour, he shared how faith leads the people of China amid suffering, trials and difficulties. He narrated how the communist party took over China in 1948, which resulted to a “silent church” because the party “brainwashed” the people successfully in 1951.
He said all Catholic schools, specifically the teachers, were summoned supposedly to denounce the foreign missionaries and papal nuncio of China at that time. However, a Salesian took courage and said during the assembly: “It’s not allowed. Not allowed to declare ourselves against the pope, against the successor of St. Peter, and against who represent Jesus in our church.”
While the words “awakened” the assembly, the Salesian disappeared that day and found to have died in detention.
On September 8, 1955, during the feast of nativity of the Blessed Mother, persecution continued nationwide as almost 1,000 people, including Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei and priests in the diocesan office, were all arrested.
Bishop Pin-Mei was forced to confess his sins before the crowd, but the former shouted instead “Long live Christ the King!” to which the choir echoed and responded, “Long live Christ the King, long live our bishop!”
A young auxiliary bishop and the outspoken auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin, was placed under house arrest since he was ordained more than three years ago.
Zen, as Ze-kiun is popularly known, explained that the courage of the Bishop, of every Catholic come from the Holy Spirit. Sometime in 1949, all churches and celebrant of the Eucharist spent a few minutes to give systematic catechesis.
“Everybody knew the consequence if they refuse to comply. Imagine how terrified were the parents of these boys and girls. Some pleaded, children say, please have pity on us,” he said.
Zen said it is not enough to just proclaim faith. One should live out the faith as part of the “mission” of proclaiming and recognizing Christ.
Zen, now 84, is likened to a folk hero among Chinese Catholics because of his outspoken support to the underground Church and willingness to stand up to the Communist leadership. He was bishop of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009 and was made a Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006.
A Salesian priest, he is a vocal critic of China’s communist government and has called for Hong Kong to be given full democracy.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said Zen’s message is a way of reminding people that faith is a “gift” with many dimensions.
“Listening to him make me feel how privileged we are… we can practice our faith without the threat of martyrdom. We should be truly grateful, happy for this privilege and should really live out this privilege,” he said.
Palma believes that the problems and trials the Catholic Chinese face are the “challenges” of the Lord. “We are one with them,” he said.
Palma said earlier some nationals of “communist” countries were denied permission to travel but some Chinese Christians from Hong Kong and Macau are joining the congress.
Although Hong Kong and Macau have reverted to Chinese rule, they are “special administrative regions” that are accorded autonomy by China. (FREEMAN)