12/01/2006, 00.00
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The Red Book of Chinese Martyrs, a collection of "great human and spiritual value"

In the preface, Cardinal Zen remembers the bishops who are still in jail and urges readers not to forget the martyrs of the 20th century. Edited by Gerolamo Fazzini, the book is the outcome of collaborative efforts of various missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions who are China experts.

Rome (AsiaNews) – Among the numerous Catholics jailed for 30 or more years in China "quite a few have left us their memoirs. Many of these have been kept in drawers for a long time, but now leaving them there would be an incomprehensible and unpardonable error," wrote Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, in the preface of Il libro rosso dei martiri cinesi (The Red Book of Chinese Martyrs), the first result of the collaboration between Mondo e Missione and the Edizioni San Paolo.

The 271-page book is a collection of testimonials and autobiographical accounts of the persecution carried out by the Maoists against Catholics between the 1950s and the 1970s.

Edited by Gerolamo Fazzini, but made possible by the collaboration of various missionaries from the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions who are China experts, the book is exceptional in terms of its historical importance because it shows from within the contractions and brutality of the Chinese regime.

In the preface, Cardinal Zen points out that the "collection has great human and spiritual value" and remembers John Paul II who stressed the "duty to remember, especially the memory of the martyrs of the 20th century, all the martyrs, under any regime without anymore reticence".

The current situation is different but not by much. "It is certain that there is no more systematic and large scale persecution of the Maoist period," Cardinal Zen writes, "but the suffering of the Church has not ended. The communities and bishops of the official or "above ground" Church, i.e. government-sanctioned, are subject to constant controls, interference, abuses and harassment. Therefore, the communities and the leaders of the official Church are not really free as it might appear to some superficial observers".

Furthermore, "underground" or "clandestine" communities, who refuse (and it is their right) to be subordinate to the government's religious policies, are subjected to continued abuse and even violence. Thus it is not farfetched to say that they are enduring persecution. Sadly, tens of bishops, priests and laity are currently under house arrest or in internal exile. There are even six fellow bishops about whom nothing has been known for years. Let me mention in particular Mgr James Su Zhimin (from the diocese of Baoding, Hebei) who disappeared ten years ago".

Cardinal Zen's conclusion is one of hope though. "These pages are not only pages of suffering and pain; they are above all pages of joy. No one will able to take away from us the joy and beauty of being disciples of Jesus".

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