WASHINGTON (March 14, 2005) – The chairman of the bishops' International Policy Committee has requested information from the Chinese government on the condition and status of 18 bishops and 19 priests "either imprisoned, under house arrest, under surveillance or otherwise prevented from exercising their ministry" in China.
In a letter to Ambassador Yang Yiechi, Bishop John H. Ricard, SSJ, of Pensacola-Tallahassee, said "these are serious, responsible and indeed patriotic Chinese citizens who deserve better than to be treated as criminals."
Bishop Ricard reminded the ambassador of three letters sent in 2004 requesting similar information regarding specific bishops and priests, reportedly imprisoned, noting that he had "yet to receive any response or acknowledgement of my letters."
The full text of Bishop Ricard's letter to the ambassador follows:
March 11, 2005
His Excellency Yang Jiechi
Ambassador of the People's Republic of China
2300 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008
Dear Mr. Ambassador:
I send you belated New Year's greetings from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, hoping that the Lunar New Year of the Rooster may bring an increase in peace and contentment to the people of the great Chinese nation.
I write today, Mr. Ambassador, about a matter that is of grave concern to a great many people throughout the world, the hostile treatment accorded by your government to several Chinese bishops and priests of the Roman Catholic faith.
As you know, I wrote to you on three occasions last year (March 11, April 7 and August 24, 2004) concerning the arrest of particular bishops and priests. I have yet to receive any response or acknowledgement of my letters.
Today, Mr. Ambassador, I expand those earlier requests for information about arrested clergy and send to you an expanded list of bishops and priests either imprisoned, under house arrest, under surveillance or otherwise prevented from exercising their ministry. The list has been prepared by the most reputable sources available and is, to our knowledge, as accurate as it is possible to be, given the limitations on information of this kind in the People's Republic today.
May I hope that you will take seriously this request for current information on the condition and welfare of these eighteen bishops, most of whom are elderly and infirm, and of the nineteen priests? Despite their refusal, as a matter of conscience, to register with the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, these are serious, responsible and indeed patriotic Chinese citizens who deserve better than to be treated as criminals.
I thank you for the attention I hope you will give to my request.
Most Reverend John H. Ricard, SSJ
Bishop of Pensacola-Tallahassee
Committee on International Policy