STAMFORD, Connecticut (LifeSiteNews) — The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has come under fresh criticism for its treatment of Catholics in the country, as Raymond Cardinal Burke recently delivered a homily decrying the “continuing persecution of the faithful Catholics in China” at the hands of the government.
The cardinal’s strong condemnation of the Chinese authorities formed part of his homily for a recent Mass that he celebrated in late July for the persecuted clergy and faithful of the underground Catholic Church in China.
Held in Stamford’s Basilica of Saint John the Evangelist, the Mass was a votive Mass of Our Lady Help of Christians, with the cardinal regularly invoking the intercession of Our Lady of She-shan, the Mother of China.
Urging the congregation to pray for the Church in China, Cardinal Burke noted how Chinese Catholics “suffer relentless persecution at the hands of a government which, for decades, has rebelled against God and His Incarnate Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, and has cruelly persecuted His children, the members of the Mystical Body of Christ.”
He referenced also the Chinese authorities’ “unilateral appointment” of a new bishop of Shanghai – with the CCP moving Bishop Shen Bin from his Vatican-approved see of Haimen to lead the Shanghai diocese, and removing the incumbent Vatican-approved Shanghai bishop in doing so.
“In these very days,” said Burke, “we have witnessed the utter disdain of the communist government of China for the Catholic Church in its unilateral appointment of the Bishop of Shanghai, the see once under the care of the saintly Bishop Cardinal Ignatius Kung, without any respect for the office of the Successor of Saint Peter.”
Such a “manner of the appointment is a glaring example of the continuing persecution of the faithful Catholics in China who are loyal to the See of Peter and, therefore, reject the control of the Church by a government which openly and brazenly rejects any form of religion,” he added. In recent weeks, Pope Francis subsequently confirmed the appointment of Bishop Shen to Shanghai, in what appeared to be an attempt to save face after the Chinese authorities so effectively removed the Vatican from exercising its power.
While proponents of the Vatican’s secretive deal with Beijing have defended the deal as a way to move forward in building a relationship with China, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has repeatedly criticized it strongly. He described the agreement as an “incredible betrayal” of China’s Catholics, and accused the Vatican of “selling out” Chinese Catholics.
Burke echoed this sentiment, stating that “we express our solidarity with the faithful Catholics in China who, because of the government’s relentless persecution, are the Underground Church.”
With that in mind, Burke highlighted the “heroic witness” of Cardinal Kung, the former bishop of Shanghai who was imprisoned by the CCP for 30 years, due to refusing to lead the schismatic “Patriotic” church run by the state. Dying at the age of 98 in Stamford, Connecticut, his funeral was held in the same basilica in which Cardinal Burke offered Mass.
The Cardinal Kung Foundation, named in his honor, now works to assist Underground Catholics in Communist China through a multitude of ways, as well as advocating for the canonization of Cardinal Kung.
The late cardinal’s life “is more than compelling today when so many faithful Catholics in China are daily subjected to persecution and death because of their fidelity to Christ and to His Vicar on earth, the Roman Pontiff,” said Burke.
Kung’s life and death, said Burke, “inspire and strengthen us to remain firm against the attempt today, as has happened in the past, to deny Christ the King as the only true Head and Shepherd of the Church and to make the Church a national entity, putting it, in some way, under the governance of the nation or of a national body, even of a national group of Bishops.”
While Chinese authorities have exercised their campaign of control and “Sinicization” over the Catholic Church in the name of being “patriotic,” Burke condemned such a notion.
The Church is governed by Christ alone Who is her Bridegroom, her Head and Shepherd, according to the constitution which He divinely gave to her during His public ministry and through His saving Passion, Death, Resurrection and Ascension, entrusting her into the pastoral care of the Apostles and their successors, the Bishops, under their head, Saint Peter, Prince of the Apostles, and his successor, the Roman Pontiff.
Furthermore, he defended the Church as already being “patriotic according to the divine law written upon every heart, because she teaches her members to worship God alone and to put divine worship into practice by obedience to the moral law, including the precept to honor one’s parents and one’s homeland.”
The Church is patriotic, but there is no such thing as a patriotic Church in the sense that the Church becomes an entity of the state and subjects herself to governance by the state. When the then Bishop Kung was brought before a mob in Shanghai, some months after his arrest on September 8, 1955, to make a public confession of his so-called crimes, he simply proclaimed: “Long live Christ.”
Cardinal Burke also highlighted the example of Cardinal Zen as an “indefatigable shepherd today for Catholics in China who, remaining true to Christ and to His Church, suffer persecution at the hands of an atheistic communist government.”
While Zen has been public in his condemnation of the Vatican-China deal, Pope Francis and Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin have consistently defended the agreement. In an early defense of the deal, Pope Francis went so far as describing it as forming a “new chapter of the Catholic Church in China.”
But the deal has led to a heightened increase in religious persecution, which the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China described as a direct consequence of the deal. In its 2020 report, the Commission wrote that the persecution witnessed is “of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution.”