WASHINGTON, (April 2, 1997) -- At least
46 Catholic missionaries were killed in 1996, and state sponsored
persecution of Christians continued in many parts of the world,
according to a statement by the chairman of the Bishops' Committee on
International Policy released today.
Archbishop Theodore E. McCarrick of Newark (NJ) said that in addition to the known 46 killed -- including bishops, priests, and religious and lay women and men -- several other missionaries were missing and feared dead.
"The large majority of these occurred in Africa, especially in Zaire, Algeria, and Burundi, and another priest in Rwanda was killed just in February," Archbishop McCarrick said. "But religious persecution and denial of religious freedom in the great continent of Asia has also worsened considerably in recent years."
As evidence of widespread religious persecution, Archbishop McCarrick cited incidents in the Philippines, Pakistan, Burma, and East Timor, home of 1996 Nobel Peace Prize winner Bishop Carlos Ximenes Belo. In particular, he singled out China and Vietnam, "avowedly atheistic" countries, for their determined efforts to control religious expression.
"In China and Vietnam, Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, as well as Buddhists continue to suffer gravely for their religious beliefs and practices. ... Reports have been received in just the last days of new attacks against one of the underground bishops, presumably in an effort to frighten people away from Holy Week and Easter worship," Archbishop McCarrick said.
"These are stark examples of how governments, even those which seek roles of prominence among the world's nations, may act from ignorance or fear in the desire to control even the minds of their citizens and reject the fundamental rights of people to worship God and express their faith free of state interference."
"The Church seeks both respect for religious liberty for all and reconciliation among the Catholics of China. We support those who defend the rights of all believers and work to build bridges between our two societies and our communities of faith. We look forward to the day when China, and all states, will replace the manipulation and control of religious belief and practice with the respect for 'freedom of thought, conscience, and religion' that the world community enshrined as a fundamental right" in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948.
Full text of Archbishop McCarrick's statement.