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Due to space constraints, please keep correspondence below 250 words, longer letters may be published online
The Vatican’s pact with China’s ‘wolves’
SIR – We the undersigned are writing to express our profound dismay at the Holy See’s recently negotiated “provisional agreement” with the People’s Republic of China.
Whilst the official wording of the agreement has not been released, all the indications are that the officially atheist Chinese government has been given a role in choosing Catholic bishops. Far worse even than this, however, under the presidency of Xi Xinping, China’s Catholics and other minority religious groups, notably the Muslim Uighurs, are enduring the harshest repression for many decades.
The US Congressional Executive Commission on China’s annual report has warned that the country’s incarceration of one million Uighurs in Orwellian political re-education camps “may be the largest incarceration of an ethnic minority population since World War II, and that it may constitute crimes against humanity”.
The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year.
In May 2018, the state-imposed bishops of the government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) passed a five-year plan for the “sinicisation” of Catholicism in China, which means the compulsory conformity of Catholic Christianity to the Chinese government’s political ideology.
Since 2017, churches in Henan, Jiangxi, Zhejiang, Liaoning and Hebei have been required to destroy banners and images with religious messages, fly the Chinese communist flag, and sing the national anthem at services. Children have even been prohibited from going to church. In Henan alone hundreds of Christians have been arrested and had Bibles confiscated, over 20 churches have been destroyed, and an estimated 100 crosses and other Christian symbols have been removed or destroyed.
In light of these human rights abuses, and the oppressive nature of Xi Jinping’s regime, it is no surprise to see the bad faith of the Chinese government manifested in the recent destruction of two Catholic Marian shrines in China since the signing of the agreement. All this illustrates the ominous precedent for the Sino-Vatican treaty: the concordats with European totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century.
Cardinal Zen has accused the Vatican of delivering its flock into the mouths of wolves. History’s judgment may be much harsher than that.
Sir David Amess MP, Kathy Sinnott, Joanna Bogle, David Paton and 10 others (for a full list of signatories, see catholicherald.co.uk)
A huge wake-up call for pro-lifers
SIR – In commenting on the Private Members’ Bill to decriminalise abortion (ie remove all legal regulation) introduced in the Commons on October 23 by Labour MP Diana Johnson, you say that although MPs backed it by 208-123, “It’s only a Ten Minute Rule Bill, meaning it is unlikely to get any further, let alone become law” (Britain news analysis, October 26).
You are right to add that “it represents a campaign which has acquired strength, and which could be the most serious legislative threat to unborn lives since the 1967 Abortion Act.”
What you do not say is that this act also started as a Private Members’ Bill, introduced by Liberal MP David Steel. This new Bill may therefore progress. It is a massive wake-up call to all pro-lifers.
Death penalty coda
SIR – I’m sure you and your readers will be getting tired of the game of ping pong over the death penalty which Joseph Shaw and I appear to have become embroiled in.
I am quite happy for Dr Shaw (Letter, October 26) to have the last word, but feel I should point out that I have never suggested that we should not apprehend and punish criminals; only that we shouldn’t kill them. Neither am I a pacifist. My father gave six years of his life to defend this country against fascism during World War II and I like to think that if called upon I would do the same.
Anyway, I thought the issue under discussion was capital punishment, not the defence of the realm. However, I would just like to pose one more question. If the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four had been sentenced before 1965, then they would almost certainly have been hanged, so wouldn’t it then have been rather an empty gesture to quash their convictions? This is positively my last word on the subject, I promise.
God is, therefore I am
SIR – It seems to me that Nigel Stanbridge’s counter-maxim to Descartes’s maxim “I think therefore I am” (Letter, November 2) falls far short of negating the validity of Descartes’s maxim as he sees it.
If he goes by the maxim he suggests, “I love therefore I am”, it is just as negative in its application to a foetus as he claims “I think therefore I am” is. The basis of his argument is that a foetus cannot/does not think: can a foetus love? I question the continuity and application of his logic.
Surely, the maxim should be, “I am created by and in the image of God, therefore I am.” Yahweh himself in the Old Testament informed those who questioned him that his name was: “I am.”
Fr Brian JA Smith
West Drayton, Greater London
Praying for England
SIR – Stuart Sexton (Letter, November 2) proposes that we should pray for England every day and especially at the end of Mass. I think this is a very good idea. In fact, in June 2016 I sent an email to the hierarchy in my diocese in which I suggested that we reinstate the Prayer for England at the end of Sunday Masses. However, I was informed that the introduction of the intercessions after the Creed on Sunday (which was a result of the reforms of the liturgy of Vatican II) meant that liturgists would tend to discourage the addition of another prayer at the end of Mass and may not consider it the most appropriate way to pray for our country.
Is it now time to reinstate the practice of praying for England at the end of Sunday Masses?
Our Pope Pius gamble
SIR – It is not exactly true to say that your paper gambled on Pope Pius XII dying by going to press with the news of his death while he was still on his deathbed (Diary, October 26).
It was a Wednesday evening, when there was an early print run, with the main print run taking place on Thursday. Two front pages were prepared – one announcing the pope’s death, the other reporting that he was still on his deathbed. We reckoned the pope was going to die overnight: if in the morning he was still alive, we would simply have scrapped this first print run and switched to the alternative.
Marian Curd, the news editor, stayed overnight at the printers, while the editor (Michael de la Bédoyère) and I (then a sub-editor and reporter) went back to London. The gamble paid off.
New Barnet, Hertfordshire
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