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Updated: October 17, 1988 05:00 PM GMT
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Bishop Ignatius Gong Pinmei of Shanghai has called for prayers for bishops ordained without Vatican approval in mainland China.

The plea by Bishop Gong, 88, came in a homily delivered in Chinese Sept. 8 at Stamford, a city in the state of Connecticut in the northeastern United States.

Vatican-appointed Bishop Gong, who was alleged in 1955 to have organized and led counter-revolutionary activities after the Communist victory in 1949, has been under medical treatment in the United States since this past May.

Chinese officials granted Bishop Gong parole from life imprisonment in mid-1985 and, in a pardon this past January, restored all of his political rights.

Bishop Gong called for prayers for those who have gone astray and have endured severe trials, especially bishops appointed without Vatican approval and ordained by the Church in China, which operates on an independent basis.

The Church in China severed its ties with the Universal Church three decades ago and established the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in 1957.

"May they not persist in this schism and quickly return to the one, holy and catholic Church, as one flock under one shepherd," he declared during a Mass celebrating the feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Bishop Gong also prayed for priests and Catholics who are still suffering and living a poor and lonely life in the mainland, saying "We still do not forget them. The whole Church will not forget them."

He added that he hopes they would continue to keep their faith firmly.

Many imprisoned priests in China have been freed in the past few years, but one Hong Kong-based Church observer says some 20 Catholics are still detained.

Bishop Gong also reminisced in his homily about 33 years ago the same day Sept. 8 when more than 30 priests, dozens of Religious and several hundred Catholics in Shanghai diocese were arrested and made to undergo different trials.

That period marked the beginning of the Silent Church, the bishop said, and they remained "loyal, steadfast and courageously taking up their crosses."

Jailed and sent to forced labor, he continued, those Catholics had to leave their homes and families, with the result that husbands and wives, parents and children were separated from one another, and some lost not only their jobs and educational opportunities but also even their lives.

They were no fools, declared Bishop Gong. They would not betray the Church and had the determination to defend the Church even unto death, he said.

They followed the teachings of Jesus, he said, and by not abandoning God, they kept the faith and maintained their dignity as adopted children of God.

Bishop Gong thanked God for the many priests and Catholic laity who suffered trials and labor camps, and for sacrificing their lives for the Lord during the past 33 years.

He also praised them as models and examples for the Church, like Christians who died as martyrs in the Church´s early history, and said he believes that they are interceding in heaven that the Church in China may soon flourish.

Bishop Gong also asserted that the spirit of evangelization still must be expanded and strengthened, and he prayed to Our Lady of Sheshan, Patroness of Shanghai diocese, that God´s plan of redemption may be fulfilled in China.

Pope John Paul II also prayed to Our Lady of Sheshan in August and expressed a wish to join spiritually in the Chinese faithful´s pilgrimage to her shrine.


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