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Zen appeals for solidarity with China's Christians

Persecution seeks to create renegades not martyrs, prelate tells Cebu congress

Joe Torres and Mark Saludes, Cebu City

Joe Torres and Mark Saludes, Cebu City

Published: January 26, 2016 08:47 AM GMT

Updated: January 26, 2016 10:21 AM GMT

Zen appeals for solidarity with China's Christians

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong speaks before thousands of delegates 72 countries at the 51st International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong has appealed to delegates at the International Eucharistic Congress in Cebu to show solidarity with persecuted Christians in China.

"[Chinese Christians] are still in deep waters, in burning fire, a terrible reality," Cardinal Zen told the weeklong gathering on Jan. 25.

The retired prelate said he wanted to tell those attending the meeting "how our martyrs in China in recent history give splendid witness to Jesus."

"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," said Cardinal Zen, referring to persecuted Chinese Christians.

This year's eucharistic congress — a gathering of Catholic clergy, religious, and laity held every four years — carries the theme "Christ in you, our hope for glory," a quote from St. Paul's epistle to the Colossians.

China barred delegates from the mainland from attending this year's eucharistic congress, but several groups from Hong Kong and Macau are in Cebu.

Cardinal Zen, an outspoken critic of China's communist government, said that although the "church in China became a silent church, fortunately, the silence is not immediately complete."

The prelate reminded the congress how China had denounced foreign missionaries and the papal nuncio as "imperialists."

Hundreds of Christians, including the late Bishop Ignatius Kung Pin-Mei were arrested in the "big persecution" of Sept. 8, 1955, for refusing to be part of the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, he said.

During his trial, when Bishop Kung was ordered to confess his sins, the prelate shouted: "Long live Christ the King."

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Then somebody from the crowd shouted: "Long live Christ the King! Long live our bishop!" Zen said.

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

From that moment "slowly but immeasurable, a curtain not of iron but of bamboo separated that part of the world from all the rest."

"Our church in China became silent," said Cardinal Zen.

The retired cardinal also cited the house arrest of Thaddeus Ma Daqin, the auxiliary Shanghai bishop who quit the government mandated Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association at his episcopal ordination in 2012.

He didn't mention the recent cross removal campaign in China's Zhejiang province, which has seen hundreds of crosses removed or demolished in the past two years.

Cardinal Zen said the Eucharist should encourage Catholics around the world to support one another.

Chinese authorities these days "prefer to create renegades rather than martyrs" by dividing Christians in China, he said.

"Beside the threats and punishments, they use money and social pollution. They have money, and money was the reason why Judas betrayed Jesus." 

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