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INTERVIEW
Christian Monitor Interview � Joseph Kung (Re-Published)
Joseph Kung, nephew of the late Cardinal Kung, has spoken before many international organisations and is a frequent guest on radio and television programmes. He was the recipient of the Freedom Award from the Cardinal Mindszenty Foundation in 1995, and, representing the Cardinal Kung Foundation, he received the 2001 Religious Freedom Award from Freedom House�s Center for Religious Freedom.
Joseph Kung is President of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, which works to support the persecuted Roman Catholic Church in China. Among its many tasks, it strives to inform the public about Chinese persecution of the Church, it assists underground bishops in their apostolates and it helps to promote religious education for underground seminarians and priests. You can read about the Foundation�s work at its very extensive website.
In this interview with Christian Monitor he describes the persecution being suffered by the Church in China, and he gives advice on what Christians and others can do to help bring true freedom of worship to China. (Note that his answer to the first question is largely taken from the Foundation�s website. Readers are referred there for more detail.)

What is the state of the Catholic Church in China today?

The promise of religious freedom in China is a false one. Despite the Chinese Government's ratification of several human rights treaties, its stated adherence to the UN Declaration of Human Rights, and a provision in the Chinese Constitution guaranteeing freedom of religion and belief, China continues to commit serious violations of religious freedom and belief. The Chinese Government severely and systematically persecutes members of China's spiritual communities, including Roman Catholics, Protestants, Evangelical Christians, Tibetan Buddhists, Uighur Muslims, and members of the Falun Gong movement.

The Chinese Government views religion as a threat to its power. As a result, it restricts religious activities to government-sanctioned organizations and registered places of worship. It also seeks to stamp out those religious activities that are not government-sanctioned. The Chinese State Council's Religious Affairs Bureau screens religious groups for official approval or disapproval, monitors membership in religious organizations, and controls locations of meetings, religious training, selection of religious hierarchy, publication of religious materials, and funding for religious activities. Those groups that defy the control of the Religious Affairs Bureau face severe consequences: mass campaigns, surprise raids, imposition of heavy fines, imprisonment, and torture.

The Catholic Church in China, therefore, has two faces: the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the underground Roman Catholic Church. The Chinese Government officially permits only those Catholic churches affiliated with the CCPA. The CCPA takes its orders only from the State Council's Religious Affairs Bureau. It does not recognize the supreme administrative, legislative, and judicial authority of the Pope. The CCPA, for example, appoints and ordains its own bishops without the permission of the Pope, with the exception of perhaps very few. It does not take its mandate from the Pope. It does not recognize the Pope as the leader of the universal Roman Catholic Church. In fact, it has a provision in its constitution declaring its autonomy from the Pope.

The Pope, in his message to China on December 3, 1996, proudly proclaimed the underground Church as �a precious jewel of the Catholic Church� and said: �The Bishop must be the first witness of the faith which he professes and preaches, to the point of �shedding his blood� as the apostles did and as so many other pastors have done down the centuries, in many nations and also in China.�

Therefore, the Catholic organizations and congregations that continue to recognize the authority of the Pope constitute the Catholic underground. The underground Roman Catholic Church in China pledges its loyalty and obedience to Pope John Paul II. It recognizes the Pope as the supreme authority of the Roman Catholic Church. It is the only true Roman Catholic Church in China. The Pope does not recognize the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association as part of the universal Roman Catholic Church.

China therefore has two Churches that call themselves Catholic. One Church is founded by Christ approximately 2,000 years ago. The other Church is established by atheist communists 48 years ago. One Church is under severe persecution. The other one is not. One Church is in full communion with the Pope and in full communion with the universal Church. The other one is not in full communion with the Pope. One Church, of course, is the underground Roman Catholic Church. The other one is the Patriotic Association.

Currently, every one of the approximately 50 bishops of the underground Roman Catholic Church is either in jail, under house arrest, under strict surveillance, or in hiding.

Is your struggle similar to the struggle of the Protestant churches in China, or are there significant differences?

The common denominator is the struggle for the freedom of religious worship. However, the underground Roman Catholics believe that the Pope is the leader of the universal Roman Catholic Church. We, as Catholics, not only pledge loyalty to the Pope, like many in the Patriotic Association do, but we are also obedient to the Pope, which is not the case for many in the Patriotic Association. It is not only love of the Pope, but also obedience. Everyone may love the Pope, but not everyone can be obedient to the Pope. Obedience to the Pope is one of the basic requirements for being a Catholic. One cannot be a Catholic while not being obedient to the Pope (This is against Catholic doctrine). The Protestant churches do not have this issue.

It seems that despite all the persecution, the Church - both Catholic and Protestant - continues to grow strongly in China. Is this the case? Why is it happening?

Yes, it is true that despite all the persecutions, the Catholic Church continues to grow, from 3 million-plus when the communists took over in 1949, to 12 million in 2005. The Protestant Church has also grown, though I do not have the statistics. Why is it happening? I am afraid that I do not have an answer. I believe that it is the good seeds that many former foreign missionaries sowed in the hearts of the faithful, and it is the good examples that numerous Chinese religious gave to the faithful, and it is also the grace given to us by the Holy Spirit.

How do you see the future of the Church in China over the coming few decades?

Let me quote the late Cardinal Kung. In April 1994, he said in St. John's Church in New York: "The Catholic Church will never vanish in China. I beg you to have the patience to stay with us with your prayers and open support until our Holy Mother Mary saves China in her own time." I believe that the Roman Catholic Church in China will continue to grow despite the continuous persecutions.

The Chinese economy is growing powerfully, and it seems China is going to become increasingly important in world affairs. Will the growth of Christianity in China have an impact on Chinese politics and the economy?

I am that kind of "old-fashioned" person who believes that good will always prevail, and bad will eventually wither away. The communists will fade away in China eventually. When? I do not know. Christianity will explode in China and it will definitely impact Chinese politics and the economy. I firmly believe that Christians not only love their religion, but also love their country - no matter what that country is - and China is no exception. Chinese Christians love China very much. They are very patriotic. It is this combination of loving their religion and also loving their country that will hopefully influence the Chinese government leadership to swing their policies to be more democratic and have more adherence to human rights. Let us pray for this.

Do you see inspiration in, say, South Korea, where the Church has also had explosive growth, or Russia, where Christianity is blooming again after decades of repression?

Christianity in Africa is also exploding, regardless of the extreme poverty there. They are all good examples, but I do not believe that they are the inspiration that has caused the Roman Catholic Church to go "underground" and to keep its faith, because the Roman Catholic Church in China has been underground for the last 50 years. Christianity was not blooming in South Korea, Russia or Africa 50 years ago. It is the faith in Catholicism of the underground church that counts.

What can we in the West do to help your struggle? We can pray and we can donate money - but is there more that we can do? What about boycotting Chinese products....?

There is much that can and must be done.

Most importantly, we must pray. Not only do we need prayers for the underground Roman Catholic Church in China, but also we need prayers for our separated brothers and sisters in the government's "official church (Patriotic Association)," so that they too will be filled with the Holy Spirit, and that they too will be courageous witnesses of Christ. May they return home to the Universal Roman Catholic Church ruled by our sovereign Pontiff so that China will return to "One Fold and One Shepherd".

We would like to develop into a tradition in the United States, and, if possible, around the world - in as many parishes as possible - the celebration of an annual Mass for the persecuted underground Roman Catholic Church in China. We would like to establish the last Sunday of September of each year as the annual date for these Masses. We hope that thousands of parishes throughout the world will celebrate Mass on the same day for the persecuted Roman Catholic Church in China, in the hope that the media will pick up the story and publicize the plight of the underground church.

Bishops, priests, government officials and others should be made aware of the on-going fierce religious persecution in China and be made aware of the current misinformation campaign by the Chinese Government concerning the Catholic Church there. Those who are knowledgeable of the persecution could share their knowledge with their friends, prayer groups and pastors. We will support their efforts by supplying our newsletters, pamphlets and prayers cards.

The bishops should speak out on religious persecution much more often. They should establish a special commission to monitor religious persecution - not only in China, but also worldwide. Editors of diocese newspapers should publish timely articles on the issue.

City representatives, state senators, congressmen and senators in Washington should be made well aware of the on-going religious persecutions in China. They should make the cessation of persecution of religious believers a TOP priority objective of United States foreign policy. Currently, the US administration's effort to thwart and resolve religious persecutions worldwide, including China, is not effective and minuscule.

We need the help of the media. Timely reporting of these atrocities in the free world is extremely important. It puts the Chinese Government on notice that the free world does know of the on-going atrocities. It will also put the free world on notice that China cannot be taken as a serious partner in international politics and trade if religious persecutions continue unabated.

The continuing persecution of religious believers simply is not in conformity with the behavior that must be demanded of any country, including China, that is to host the Olympic Games; otherwise, the spirit of the Games could be downgraded through co-existence with the evil spirit of religious persecution. A country hosting the Olympic Games must be committed to promoting peace through sports, not merely to seeking the financial reward of tourism. China is obviously a country of particular concern for its persecution of innocent religious believers, as defined by the US State Department.

Having awarded China the honor of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, the Olympic Committee and governments worldwide must not tolerate these atrocious persecutions without any protest, and must not turn away from innocent, helpless victims. Otherwise, the noble �Olympic� name could be tarnished by its association with persecution and human rights violations. The international Olympic committee must serve an ultimatum to the Chinese government that for China to keep the honor of hosting the 2008 Olympic Games, China must release immediately all religious prisoners of conscience and exonerate, including posthumously, all charges laid against these prisoners, both living and dead, of so-called crimes of which the Chinese government falsely accused them, some as long as five decades ago.

In fact, just on March 23rd this year the Cardinal Kung Foundation sent a letter to the Chinese ambassador in Washington DC, appealing to China to release all the underground Roman Catholic imprisoned religious and exonerate them of their crimes. You can read the letter on our website.

And finally, yes, we should boycott Chinese-made products. As a consumer, one needs to examine the labels of one�s purchase. Business and finance is important to any country. Should one support a country by purchasing its good and services when such country has no regard for the human rights principles held so dear to us, to our children and families? Very often, the low price tag associated with �Made in China� was achieved on the blood and back of many religious prisoners in labor camps. The communist Chinese government may not share our principles and values, but they must know that religious persecution will hurt them, at least financially. Ladies and gentlemen, I appeal to you, please do not buy anything made in China.

Thank you very much for such comprehensive answers. We wish you well in your struggle.

-Martin Roth (20-Aug-2008)