03/15/2005, 00.00
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More in Europe and US join campaign to free Chinese bishops

MEP requests the release of Chinese bishops and priests. US Catholic bishops ask China to stop treating bishops and priests as criminals.

Rome (AsiaNews) – AsiaNews's campaign for the release of 19 bishops and 18 priests held by the Chinese authorities has received the support of a European Member of Parliament and US bishops.

Mario Mauro, Vice President of the European Parliament, has called on his fellow MPs to take an 'emergency initiative' on behalf of Catholic bishops and priests held in China. In a letter to Hans-Gert Poettering, President of the European People's Party, Mr Mauro said he was "afraid that in China a virtual process of 'religious cleansing' was taking place against all those who accepted the authority of the Pope and the Catholic Church. For him, "the European Parliament cannot remain indifferent with respect to this dramatic situation".

Mr Mauro ended his letter expressing his confidence that "the next conference of party Whips would take the necessary steps to help the 37 bishops and priests who have been prevented from exercising their functions in China".

Support to AsiaNews's campaign has indirectly come from US bishops as well. Mgr John H. Ricard, chairman of the bishops' International Policy Committee, has sent a letter to the Chinese Ambassador to the US requesting information on the condition and status of 19 bishops and 18 priests held in China.

In his March 11 letter, Bishop Ricard relayed to Ambassador Yang Jiechi, the "grave concern of a great many people throughout the world [about] the hostile treatment accorded by your government to several Chinese bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic faith." He added that the "list [of imprisoned clergy] has been prepared by the most reputable sources available".

The US prelate reminded the Ambassador of previous letters sent in 2004 requesting similar information regarding specific bishops and priests, reportedly imprisoned, noting that he had "yet to receive any response or acknowledgement of my letters."

He also expressed the "hope that the request for current information on the condition and welfare of these bishops, most of whom are elderly and infirm, and of the priests be taken seriously".

Bishop Ricard ended his letter by saying that although these men refused to register with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association on grounds of conscience, they "are serious, responsible and indeed patriotic Chinese citizens who deserve better than to be treated as criminals". (LF)

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