01/17/2012, 00.00
CHINA - VATICAN
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Msgr. Savio Hon: Freedom for arrested bishops and priests, is also good for China

by Bernardo Cervellera
Even if the government does not give answers or to the Holy See, or diplomats, or to friends of the Vatican and China, it is important that "no one forgets about them." The Chinese government's official response when asked is always: "We do not know." "We need to pray first," "but we must also appeal to those who are holding them."
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - "China should free the bishops and priests who have been arrested because it would be good for China's international image”, states Msgr. Savio Hon Tai-fai, secretary of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, commenting on the AsiaNews campaign for the release of the bishops and priests that have disappeared in police custody or are detained in forced labour camps. He stresses that even if the government does not give answers or to the Holy See, or diplomats, or to friends of the Vatican and China, it is important that "no one forgets them."
Archbishop Hon, Chinese from Hong Kong, says he is "proud of their witness. I am Chinese and the witness of my brother bishops fills me with joy and comfort. " "These martyrs - he adds - make our evangelization fruitful. These figures remain as models of heroism for all faithful of the world. "

Below our exclusive interview with Msgr. Hon Tai-fai:

Excellency, what do you think of the request for the release of these bishops and priests, or the request to at least know of their fate?

Wanting to know of their situation, implies there is a form of system that will not allow any bad or negative news be leaked to the nation. The Chinese government's official response is always: "We do not know", and that is the response that the Holy See has received several times. But this response tells us that these people, as bishops, men of faith and fidelity to their Lord, disappeared for religious reasons. Their families and their neighbours give us what news they can.

What can be done for these prisoners of faith?

We need to pray for these bishops and priests who have disappeared. I must say that I am really proud of their witness. I am Chinese and so seeing this witness of my brother bishops fills me with joy and comfort.
But we must also appeal to those who are holding these bishops. The authorities should try to solve this problem, not only because of the difficulties that result in the Christian community, but also for the problems it causes the Chinese nation. The news of arrests, disappearances, detention in forced labour camps or house arrest of bishops or priests, is quite damaging for China. If these people have done something wrong, please send them to court, not to prison or isolation. This mode does not solve any problems and damages China’s international image.

Does all of this suffering make any sense?

According to our faith, these sufferings have a great mystical value of salvation. These martyrs make our evangelization fruitful. These figures remain as models of heroism for all the faithful of the world.

Does the Vatican continue to demand their release?

There are two channels through which their release is being demanded. The first is that of their friends, who even if they are not Catholic, have gone to the authorities for the release of the bishops.
But the answer is always the same: "We do not know, do not know where they are."
Foreign diplomats, who make the same request through the official channels, receive the same response. But even if there is no answer, it is always good to ask because it stimulates the Chinese departments, national security, not to close the case, tarnishing China's image in the world community.
The channels do not seem to be very effective, but repeating the request is critical, so no one forgets. Then it is also important to express the love of the Holy See for the underground community.

Some say that the Vatican has forgotten underground communities ...

It is often said that the Vatican has forgotten about them, but it is not true. The Holy See can not publicise all the help it gives and its closeness to them.
We help the whole Church and do not distinguish between official and underground, and take into account what is important for evangelization.
It is also important that the underground communities learn to forgive: the martyr, like St. Stephen, is also one who forgives.
For example, in the case of illicit Episcopal ordinations of months ago, many official bishops were obliged to attend. After this many of them asked for forgiveness from the Holy Father. And the Pope granted it. They also must be magnanimous and rebuild unity in reconciliation.
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