Prayer and petition for imprisoned priests in China

August 1, 2011

Poster-sized photographs of five priests who are known to be detained in prisons in China were displayed at the entrance to the chapel of St. Louis Secondary School in Pokfulam on the evening of June 29, 2011, where a Mass was offered for their release and safety.

Celebrated by the former bishop of Hong Kong, Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun, and Father Franco Mella, the 100 or so people present walked in procession through the streets, holding the poster-sized photographs of the priests aloft, with the Cardinal bearing a large wooden cross in the lead.

The group unsuccessfully requested a representative of the Beijing government to accept a petition demanding that the whereabouts of clergy who have disappeared on the mainland be made known and their personal safety guaranteed. Under the watchful gaze of a contingent of police, the petition, which specifically mentions Bishop Su Zhimin and Father Lu Genjun, from Baoding, in Hebei, and Bishop Shi Enxiang, from Yixian, was taped to the barricades erected across the entrance to the Liaison Office, and the people tied yellow ribbons, each inscribed with the name of a missing priest, to the bars.

The gathering, organized by the Justice and Peace Commission, sang a hymn and then listened as Patrick Poon read out the names of priests known to be detained by Chinese authorities, demanded that the mainland government seriously investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture against Church personnel and put a stop to all such inhuman behaviour, as well as compensate and apologize to Church people who have been injured and mistreated.

Cardinal Zen said at the Mass that there is a great deal of confusion in the world today and that, as Catholics, we are blessed to have Pope Benedict XVI to guide us. “We should count our blessings,” he said, “and pray for those who do not enjoy the right to freedom of religion.”

Prayers were offered at the Mass for those who are struggling for unity in the Church in China and for the search for truth in Hong Kong. The congregation also prayed for healing and recovery for those who have been subjected to physical and mental abuse by the Chinese government, and the Holy Spirit was asked to bless them with strength, wisdom and courage.

Columban Fr. Jim Mulroney lives and works in Hong Kong.