Shanghai (AsiaNews) - Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai is under house arrest but he is not alone. His flock and the universal Church are with him in prayer.
The Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) and the so-called Chinese Bishops' Conference have stripped Mgr Ma of his title as bishop of Shanghai. His fault was to obey the pope. He also quit the CPCA (an organisation "incompatible with Catholic doctrine") and refused to be ordained by excommunicated bishops.
A Catholic from the Diocese of Shanghai, using the pen name of 'Little Lamb', wrote a letter to his beloved and courageous bishop, expressing his bitterness and indignation at the authorities' persecution of the prelate. Citing the promises made by the country's leaders about justice and constitutional rights for the people, Little Lamb demands justice for Bishop Ma and all Catholics in China. The original letter was written in Chinese. AsiaNews is responsible for the translation into Italian and English.
My Christmas Letter for you, our beloved Bishop Ma
Dear Bishop Ma,
Christmas is coming. I'd like to write you this letter to sincerely wish you a joyous Christmas and a blessed New Year. I trust that the Infant Jesus whom you love will give you more grace-the inner peace and joy that this world cannot offer you.
Among unforgettable and memorable moments in one's life, marriage is one. For consecrated people, vow-taking for sisters, priestly ordination for seminarians', and episcopal ordination for priests, this is a joyful and blissful moment, as they dedicate their whole lives to the most loving Jesus Christ.
Bishop Ma, it is to be regretted that you could not share with others your joy of becoming a bishop or receive congratulatory words from others after your Episcopal ordination on July 7. Now, you are unreasonably given the so-called "appropriate treatment".
However, Jesus Christ has bestowed joy, peace and blessing in your heart! The grace God gives you cannot be taken from you. No person or organisation can revoke your Episcopal ministry or deprive you of the appointment. The Sacrament of Holy Orders that you received has left you with an indelible mark, and that is not a "civil title".
Dear Bishop Ma, you are our good bishop. Your steadfastness in faith shows us the specific requirements on how to live the 'Year of Faith'. Certainly, faith is not just a set of beliefs, but a relationship between human beings and God, with sincerity, trust and love. In order to bear witness to one's own beliefs, some people are not afraid of imprisonment, not to mention to testify our faith in the Holy Trinity, our true God!
Perhaps, there are people who do not understand our Catholic faith, thinking that our faith has "Chinese characteristics". Yet, the fact is that the Catholic faith is one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. This faith is manifested in that universality of Christian belief that includes the communion and unity with the Holy See. "Love" is the sole requirement in the Catholic faith. Therefore, our rule of life must be to love God, to love the Church, to love one's country, to love the people, and even to love those who hurt us.
Dear Bishop Ma, your actions have shown us the loving God is above all things and that we must do everything "for the Greater Glory of God". Even in the face of suffering, you still adhere to your own faith and do not waver. You show tolerance, friendliness and politeness to others at all times. Even when you are held responsible for faults not of your own, you forgive and embrace your opponents or those who hold different opinions. You are well aware that everyone is created as God's image, and they are all are our brothers and sisters, and are equal.
This reminds me of Jesus Christ, though innocent, was tried and crucified for the salvation of our world. You have not committed any fault or mistakes, and yet your personal freedom has been restricted and you are doing penance for our Church in China.
We look upon you as an example to follow Jesus Christ, the Saviour, who says: "Whoever wants to be my disciple, must take up their cross and follow me." (Luke, 9:33) The cross is a touchstone and a ridge of our faith. Only those who are willing and earnestly to carry the cross will attain the true virtues of faith, hope and love.
Even though the cross is a necessary way to follow Christ, we are not afraid of carrying it with you. Reviewing the Church history, heresies are common. Gnostics, Arians . . . have let the body of Christ again and again experienced the pain of division. However, our Church, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, still stands in the world. Now in our Church in China, some people want to leave the Mother Church, even though the Holy Father, with a loving heart, has extended them the olive branches again and again, and hopes that they will return, they are going further and further away. We feel painful, because they have stripped the mystic body of Christ, but we will not condemn them, as they are also our brothers and sisters. However, they have no right and cannot kidnap all the true believers of the Catholic faith. Faith is one's own choice. We are like you to have chosen the true Catholic faith, and our faith will not be shaken because of material gains. Those who have chosen to stand in God's side shall come under His protection. You have chosen to stand on His side, and we stand together with you.
As Christmas approaches, may I pledge the Infant Jesus as a gift to our state leaders in China to have a more open mind and empathy to understand the most basic requirements of the people. Freedom of religion is one of their most fundamental needs.
In his inaugural speech, Xi Jinping, General Secretary of Communist Party of China, has received praise from all quarters. For me, his commemorative speech at a congress that marked the 30th anniversary of the promulgation of China's 1982 Constitution in Beijing on Dec. 4 was encouraging.
Xi said: "No organisation or individual shall have the privilege to go beyond the Constitution and the law" and "we must act in accordance with the law to treat fairly the people's appeals, to ensure fairness and justice in each judicial case as well as not allow unfair trials to hurt people's sentiments or undermine their rights and interests."
Our Constitution gives citizens the freedom of religious belief. For Catholics, this means that we can enjoy the freedom of the faith of our Church and live in accordance with our Christian responsibilities and obligations. I am convinced that General Secretary Xi has been informed that some officials have gone against his promise, and discredited the country and state leaders in the eyes of the world.
May Infant Jesus bestow wisdom upon China's Chinese leaders, so that they will earnestly carry out their promises, care about believers' religious sentiments, respect the principles of Catholic faith and give us a genuine freedom of religious belief. We pray and look forward to that day.
Dear Bishop Ma, we pray to God with the motto inscribed on your coat-of-arms. May all Catholics "be united", do all things "for the Greater Glory of God", carry the triple mission of "spreading the Gospel, holding sacraments and doing charity" and be true Catholics.
May we meet in prayer. May our merciful God bless us all, and especially protect you.
Once again, I wish you peace and joy!
Your Little Lamb