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WASHINGTON, D.C., January 5, 2021 (LifeSiteNews) — In his recent “Proclamation on the 850th Anniversary of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas Becket,” President Donald Trump not only paid tribute to this “lion of religious liberty,” but also offered special recognition to Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong for his “brave and inspiring” defense of Catholics suffering under Communist Chinese persecution.
The special proclamation links the 1170 murder of the English archbishop as a causal factor limiting the power of the state over the Church in the West, including by special provision in the Magna Carta of 1215 — an inspirational and juridical source of the U.S. Bill of Rights.
“Thomas Becket’s death serves as a powerful and timeless reminder to every American that our freedom from religious persecution is not a mere luxury or accident of history, but rather an essential element of our liberty,” Trump wrote. “It is our priceless treasure and inheritance. And it was bought with the blood of martyrs.”
“We pray for religious believers everywhere who suffer persecution for their faith. We especially pray for their brave and inspiring shepherds — like Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong and Pastor Wang Yi of Chengdu — who are tireless witnesses to hope,” he said.
Cardinal Zen is best known for his acute criticism of a 2018 Vatican secret agreement with China that provides the atheist Communist government a say in the appointment of bishops, among other concessions. Zen called the agreement an “incredible betrayal.”
Critics’ warnings that persecution would worsen have since been borne out. Persecution of other Christians and unregistered churches has also increased.
Cardinal Zen has said he fears that Pope Francis was misled into encouraging “schism” among Catholics in China.
Over the past year, informed Catholics and Christians in the West have watched helplessly as the Communist government in China has cracked down harder and harder on our Chinese brothers and sisters in Christ.
Incidents of persecutions, occurring over the last year, include the fact that:
- Christian churches have been destroyed by authorities.
- Two million Christians and Buddhist are being kept in detention.
- Christian teachings have been reinterpreted according to socialist doctrine.
- Churches in Hunan province were forced to remove displays of the Ten Commandments and replace them with quotes of President Xi Jinping.
- Churches in Jiangxi province were ordered to remove biblical paintings and crosses and replace them with portraits of the president.
- In some areas, all public displays of Christmas decorations have been banned.
- In December, Christians belonging to “house churches” not recognized by the government were ordered to refrain from publicly celebrating Christmas.
In the latest assault on the practice of one's faith in China, and, indeed, on freedom of conscience, new draconian rules, set to go into place in February, absurdly require that religious groups “spread Communist Party principles.”
Of course, the Church has been persecuted in China for decades. But, these latest attempts to squelch the independence of the Church are coming in spite of the recent agreement the Vatican signed with China’s communist government.
Or, could it be, as some suggest, that the latest persecution against Chinese Christians is coming at least, in part, because of the recent agreement the Vatican signed with the communist government?
Perhaps, appeasement is seen by the Chinese government as a weakness to be exploited.
Some senior Catholic prelates have been increasingly vocal in speaking out both against the communist government's treatment of religion, as well as aspects of the recent Agreement.
Now, a letter from Cardinal Zen to the rest of the Cardinals in the world (please read, below), more clearly delineates his grievances with the new Sino-Vatican Agreement. It also brings new light to the questions ('Dubia') he posed to Pope Francis about the Agreement in July (but, which have, to-date, gone unanswered).
One of the most striking insights the Cardinal makes about the new Sino-Vatican Agreement can be found in the second paragraph of his letter (reproduced in its entirety, below): "From my analysis of the document of the Holy See (June 28, 2019), “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China,” it is quite clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party)."
This is a devastating insight, and the good Cardinal, and faithful Catholics and Christians in China, now needs our support, both moral and prayerful.
This petition, therefore, both supports Cardinal Zen and his quest to stop the "murder of the Church in China," as well as Chinese Catholics and Christians as they face an intensifying crackdown.
Please SIGN this urgent petition, today! It will be CC'ed to Vatican authorities.
LETTER FROM CDL. ZEN TO THE COLLEGE OF CARDINALS:
Pardon the inconvenience my letter will cause you. It is just that, in conscience, I believe that the problem I present here concerns not only the Church in China, but the whole Church, and we cardinals have the grave responsibility to help the Holy Father in guiding the Church.
From my analysis of the document of the Holy See (June 28, 2019), “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China,” it is quite clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party).
On July 10, I presented my “dubia” to the Pope. His Holiness, on July 3, had promised to take an interest in them, but to this day I have still not heard anything.
Cardinal Parolin says that today when we talk about the independent Church, this independence should no longer be understood as absolute, because the agreement recognizes the role of the pope in the Catholic Church.
First of all, I cannot believe that there is such a statement in the agreement, and I do not see it there. (By the way, why must such an agreement be secret, and why is it not granted even to me, a Chinese cardinal, to see it?) But, even more clearly, the whole reality after the signing of the agreement shows that nothing has changed. Cardinal Parolin quotes a sentence from Pope Benedict’s letter completely out of context — indeed, diametrically opposed to the whole paragraph. This manipulation of the pope emeritus’s thought is gravely disrespectful; indeed, it is a deplorable insult to the person of such a meek pope, who is still alive.
But it also disgusts me that they often declare that what they are doing is in continuity with the thought of the previous pope, while the opposite is true. I have reason to believe (and I hope one day to be able to prove with archival documents) that the agreement signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had, at the time, refused to sign.
Your Eminence, can we passively witness the murder of the Church in China by those who should protect and defend her from her enemies?
Begging on my knees, your brother,
Card. Joseph ZEN, SDB
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
List of Cardinal Zen's Questions (Dubia) to Pope Francis (Scroll down): https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cdl-zen-tells-pope-francis-that-vaticans-new-pastoral-doc-to-china-justifies-apostasy
'Cdl Zen urges cardinals to stop the ‘murder of the Church in China’ - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/cdl-zen-decries-vatican-china-deal-in-letter-to-cardinals-it-disgusts-me
'Chinese bishop sleeping on street after refusing to join communist schismatic group' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/chinese-bishop-sleeping-on-street-after-refusing-to-join-communist-schismatic-group
Vatican’s June release of new guidelines concerning the civil registration of clergy in China - https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2019/06/28/0554/01160.html#en
'Chinese govt demands Christians use religion to ‘spread Communist Party principles’ - https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/chinese-govt-demands-christians-use-religion-to-spread-communist-party-principles
'Vatican doesn’t understand that communist China will never compromise' - https://www.lifesitenews.com/opinion/vatican-doesnt-understand-that-communist-china-will-never-compromise
In July, 2019, Zen appealed to the Pope to defend his fellow persecuted Catholics, and later revealed that he had sent a letter to the college of cardinals pleading with them to denounce the agreement, calling it the “murder of the Church in China.” He also shared with his brother cardinals the “dubia” or questions that he gave to the Pope regarding the pastoral guidelines that allowed the civil registration of faithful clergy with the communist government.
“This document,” he wrote, “has radically turned upside what is normal and what is abnormal, what is rightful and what is pitiable. Those who wrote it hope perhaps that the pitied minority will die a natural death.”
The purpose of Trump’s proclamation was to emphasize the necessity of ending such religious persecution.
“To honor Thomas Becket’s memory,” Trump wrote, “the crimes against people of faith must stop, prisoners of conscience must be released, laws restricting freedom of religion and belief must be repealed, and the vulnerable, the defenseless, and the oppressed must be protected. The tyranny and murder that shocked the conscience of the Middle Ages must never be allowed to happen again. As long as America stands, we will always defend religious liberty.
“A society without religion cannot prosper. A nation without faith cannot endure — because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the grace of God,” he concluded.