03/09/2005, 00.00
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Free prisoners campaign takes off in Europe and North America

Many voices are raised on prisoners' behalf: Taiwan's Cardinal Shan, European Parliament Vice-President Mario Mauro and many Catholic, Orthodox and Protestant online media.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The campaign AsiaNews launched to free 18 bishops and 19 priests from Chinese jails is meeting success and finding support. Among the better known voices speaking out on behalf of the imprisoned prelates and clergymen there is that of Card Paul Shan Kuo-hsi, Bishop of Kaohsiung (Taiwan), who said: "We want to see our brothers, bishops and priests, free. There are no reasons for the Chinese government to fear the Church, which has never harmed or committed acts of violence against the government in Beijing. The underground Church, too, has never engaged in violent behaviour. All we can do now is pray for the Chinese Church and demand that China respects religious freedom more".

Cardinal Shan is not alone in calling for the liberation of jailed bishops and priests. In a message to AsiaNews, the Honourable Mario Mauro, Vice-President of the European Parliament and a member of Italy's Forza Italia party, said: "From now on I shall do everything to ensure that Catholics in China are free to practice their faith independent of state-controlled organisations. I shall also do my utmost to have the European Union condemn the unacceptable actions by Chinese authorities against Catholics who refuse to submit to tight government control over religious activities".

In addition to religious and political figures, the campaign is touching Catholics and non Catholics alike, in Europe and North America as well. In Russia Credo, a web portal run by Orthodox sociologist Alexandr Schipkov, has given the campaign prominence, publishing information about the Catholic Church in China and adding a hyperlink to AsiaNews so that its readers can participate in the campaign. Poland's Ekumeniczna news agency has done the same. 

Among Protestants, the campaign has been picked up by Christian Today, a UK-based Anglican newspaper that is keenly interested in the fate of persecuted people, and by The Christian Post, a Protestant newspaper based in California. In the United States, Catholic World News has also joined the campaign.

North of the border from the United States, in the Canadian province of Ontario, Canadian Catholic Radio is promoting the efforts to free Chinese bishops and priests.

In Europe, Pensa Bem, a Portuguese site has also adhered to it.

In Italy Vatican Radio gave the campaign a boost by covering its launch on March 5, Italian Catholic daily Avvenire devoted an entire page to it, whilst Italian Catholic website Stranocristiano, Zenit news agency and Catholic Youth Website Korazym made the campaign their own, urging their readers to write to China's National People's Congress and the International Olympic Committee on behalf of the captive bishops and priests.

In China, the underground Catholic Church is passing on the list of prisoners from Catholic community to Catholic community.

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