The Way of the Cross of the Church in China

January 01, 1970
 

“I did not have the slightest hesitation in accepting the task. I recognized that this was the Holy Father’s way of demonstrating his personal concern for the great Continent of Asia, and in particular, his way of including in this solemn act of Christian piety the faithful people of China,” wrote the cardinal in the introduction to the meditations which were read at the Colosseum, in the evening of March 21, in the presence of Benedict XVI, and broadcasted live in the whole world.

“The Pope wanted me to bring the voice of these distant sisters and brothers to the Colosseum,” added the cardinal who, in almost each of his meditations of the 14 Stations, evoked the religious situation in China. “we are not alone at the Colosseum this evening. Present in the Holy Father’s heart and in our own hearts are all the "living martyrs" of the twenty-first century. When we think of persecution, let us also remember the persecutors.” “Colosseums have multiplied down the centuries, wherever our brothers and sisters, in different parts of the world, continue to be harshly persecuted today.” The bishop of Hong Kong especially insisted upon this persecution: “In many parts of the world, the Bride of Christ is undergoing the dark hour of persecution.” And as if questioning Chinese authorities he said: “Why this oppression? Why this humiliation? Why this prolonged servitude?”

“Across the centuries, hosts of innocent people have been condemned to atrocious sufferings. Some cry out against the injustice, but it is they, the innocent, who, in communion with Christ, the Innocent One, atone for the sins of the world,” wrote Cardinal Zen for the third station. “We firmly believe that their sufferings, even if at the time they seem like total defeat, will bring true victory to your Church.”

“Evoking the historic situation of Catholic hierarchy in China, divided as it is between the official Church, whose bishops have been appointed for 50 years by the Communist Party alone, and the underground Church, whose bishops have remained faithful to Rome, the bishop of Hong Kong wrote: “Betrayal causes surprise, especially if it even involves the shepherds of the flock.” “Let us not be scandalized! Defections are never lacking at times of persecution. And afterwards, people have often returned to the fold. In that young man who cast away the linen cloth and ran away naked (cf. Mk 14:51-52), authoritative interpreters have seen the future evangelist Mark.”

“Your choice [Christ’s] to entrust the continuation of the work of salvation to weak and vulnerable men manifests your wisdom and power,” continued the Chinese bishop.

“When we come to the aid of our brethren in the persecuted Church, make us mindful that in reality it is we who, to an even greater extent, are being helped by them.” Then the prelate spoke of the responsibility of the heads of States: “Pilate is the image of all those who wield authority as an instrument of power, having no regard for justice.” Then, addressing God: “Enlighten the consciences of the many people in positions of authority, so that they may recognize the innocence of your followers. Give them the courage to respect religious freedom.”

“There are courageous atheists who are ready to sacrifice themselves for the revolution: they are prepared to embrace the cross, but without Jesus. Among Christians there are de facto "atheists" who want Jesus, but without the Cross. Now without Jesus, the cross is unbearable, and without the Cross, no one can claim to be with Jesus,” concluded Cardinal Zen. The text of his meditations has been published by the Vatican Publishing House, and is illustrated by representations of the Passion of Christ featuring Chines people. (Sources: Apic/Imedia/vatican.va)