Thursday, June 7, 2007
SPIRIT & LIFE NEWSLETTER
Fr. Tom Reports from China
This message comes to you today from China where I am on the pro-life mission trail. For security purposes I am not able to disclose the names of the people or places that I am visiting, but suffice it to say, HLI's mission of life finds many willing ears in this vast country so infamous for its coercive abortion policy. I can honestly say that I have never seen people so hungry or grateful for the pro-life message than the Chinese. Our network of pro-life support in this country is the Catholic Church, those who recognize the authority of the Vicar of Christ in Rome; and although they are a small flock relative to the massive population, they are tested in their faith like few others I have seen.
Certain people in every culture stand out as icons of the goodness and heroism of their people, and China certainly has many of these. This week I met a bishop who had been in Communist prisons for over 20 years. This man has a permanent smile and a look of serenity on his face and just exudes holiness. He constantly thanks God for those very difficult years because he sees how they strengthened his faith and even protected the Church. He was allowed no communication with his family at all - for more than twenty years - except for rare visits where the family members were only allowed to see him at a distance to know that he was alive. The prison guards often put him and the other priests on a stage wearing dunce caps or mock bishops' miters with blasphemous sayings on them and taunted then to publicly denounce the pope. Of course they refused and paid the price for it. Some were suspended by a rope from the ceiling with their arms tied behind their backs for a whole day; others were beaten, had their feet frozen in ice and various creative forms of torture that their captors dreamed up. Many died from their mistreatment.
Finally, after the government policy changed in the 80s, this bishop was released from prison and they apologized to him for the "mistake" of imprisoning him for close to a quarter of a century! They expected him to demand compensation, but he and his people said that they would not ask for anything but would forgive their captors. This is the core of the suffering Church in China today.
As Providence would have it, he and many other priests were in prison during the entire time of the Cultural Revolution in China which saw a brutal persecution of the Catholic Church and the murder of many clergy and religious. It was actually safer for priests to be inside the prisons than outside during those years. This bishop told me that "God kept His Church alive in the prisons in those years." I then understood why this humble man of the Church is grateful for his two decades in prison.
Now the Church in China struggles with another ungodly persecution of their most innocent citizens, the unborn. In certain areas, women have to undergo gynecological exams every three months to assure that they are not pregnant with any "excess pregnancies" (meaning more than one child.) The law is strictly enforced in some places and others not, but every family fears this policy. I was told by many of the people here that Catholics and non-Catholics alike know that abortion is wrong, but the policy's overwhelming and often coercive nature puts the consciences of good people in between a rock and a hard place with regard to family and childbearing issues.
Please pray for the Church in China which, despite its poverty and diminutive status, is strong in many ways. Its clergy and religious have zeal and orthodoxy and its people love Christ and His most holy Mother fervently. These tried and true Catholics are actually growing in number and from them the Lord may well bring about the conversion of this whole marvelous civilization.
Sincerely Yours in Christ,
Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer,
President, Human Life International