Believers attend a service at the unofficial catholic church in Majhuang village, Hebei Province in China, Dec. 11, 2016. Officials from China’s Ruling Communism Party and Pope Francis tried to improve Catholic-related religious relationships this month. However, the two groups differ on which authority should appoint bishops. Thomas Peter / Reuters
Catholic church leaders from the diocese of Datong in China have urged the Vatican to help push against the persecution that they face and to not make compromises with the Chinese government.
According to AsiaNews, eight church leaders recently sent a letter to the Vatican declaring that they “cannot sit down silent without any concern, even more we cannot stand by with folded arms. “
“The freedom to practice religious beliefs is an important human right that must not be restricted, banned or removed. They wrote that while many Government proposals and statements are not something we should necessarily accept and agree to, others we oppose.
“But it is impossible to remove our freedom and rights because we are of a different faith. We, as believers, are more concerned about freedom of speech because it cannot be separated with freedom of religion. “
The church leaders continued: “We now have your control. The cross of our church, and the entire church, has been destroyed. We oppose the freedom of our faithful to attend our meetings. The Chinese Government is forcing the church to follow its lead. These things are troubling and make us unhappy. “
They add: “As believers, we know that the future decides the present. We hope you will respect the rights of the Church and respect all people with this joint declaration. “
Church leaders identified specific instances in which the Communist government persecuted Christians. These included preventing them from purchasing Bibles online and restricting large congregation meeting. They also discussed a deal between China and the Vatican to elect bishops. However, they expressed concern that the Holy See might make compromises and turn them into “scapegoats” in order to establish diplomatic relations. “
China’s approximately 12 million Catholics have been split between an underground church loyal to the pope and the state-supervised Catholic Patriotic Association.
Earlier, Chinese human rights activist Chen Guangcheng called the Vatican’s pact with China over the selection of bishops “a slap in the face to millions of Catholics and other faithful religious people in China who have suffered real persecution under the CCP. “
Chen, a blind lawyer who was imprisoned for his pro-life advocacy against forced abortions and sterilizations under China’s former “one child policy,” said he’s personally “experienced the Communist Party’s violence and brutality,” and “known and worked with countless individuals in China who have been persecuted for their beliefs. He said that he was certain that those who have fought against the persecution and persevered for so many years in China’s underground churches can only feel betrayed.
Chen claimed that the Vatican’s deal with China brings Church leaders closer to the Communist Party responsible for the deaths over 400 million unborn children and hundreds upon millions of Chinese citizens. “
“The CCP has been arresting priests, threatening congregants, and searching churches and places of worship. Chen wrote that many have been taken prisoner and tortured under the regime’s supervision. They refused to give up their religious beliefs to an intolerant and degraded political party and proved the power of their faith.
Religion is “at odds with the self-serving atheism and extreme party loyalty the CCP has long sought to inculcate in the population,” he argued. “Religion requires… faith in ideas beyond the regime’s reach. “
However, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke said that the aim of the accord “is not political but pastoral, allowing the faithful to have bishops who are in communion with Rome but at the same time recognized by Chinese authorities. “
Additionally, Pope Francis has reassured the Chinese Catholic community of his support and asked them to trust his decision.
He also reminded Catholics worldwide that they have “an important duty: to accompany our brothers and sisters in China. “
“Had Abraham sought ideal social and political conditions prior to leaving his country, perhaps he wouldn’t have set out.” The pope stated, “It wasn’t historical changes that made Abraham trust God; it was rather his faith that caused a shift in history. “
Francis encouraged Catholics in China to keep speaking out for the benefit of building a more humane society. He wrote that sometimes this might require them to criticize, but not for sterile opposition but for the sake building a society that’s more just, fair, and humane.
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