Trump praises Cardinal Zen while affirming religious liberty
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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.
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.