June 15, 1998
The Honorable Madeleine K. Albright
Secretary of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520
Dear Madame Secretary,
As you know, I had the opportunity of visiting China last February as part of a delegation of religious leaders, invited by President Jiang Zemin at the suggestion of.President Clinton. As the President embarks on his own first visit to that extraordinary country, allow me to offer some perspectives from our national bishops' conference. Among the diverse issues that will form the agenda for the talks with the Chinese leadership, may I respectfully request that the question of religious freedom be placed at the very heart of the human rights discussion that I know you will have.
The Chinese authorities need to understand that the vast majority of China's growing numbers of Christians, both Catholic and Protestant, are good and loyal citizens who seek to contribute to the well-being of their society, and ask only the freedom to express their religious beliefs free of government interference, restraint or repression.
The treatment accorded the several million so-called "underground" Chinese Catholics, and especially their bishops and clergy, who have declined to be represented by the government-established Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and, as a consequence, have been forced to suffer every kind of indignity, including detention, imprisonment and torture, will long remain a serious blot on the image of that government. The similar repression of the even more numerous Evangelical Christians whose "house churches" are frequently shut down or destroyed only compounds this picture of religious persecution.
For those many millions of other Christians who have reluctantly accepted the restraints imposed by the government, the Catholics of the so-called "open church" and the Protestants of the "three-self" movement, the degree of surveillance and control exercised over them cannot be reconciled with accepted practice. I urge you to address both issues as totally unnecessary and offensive violations of the Chinese citizen's basic human rights.
Finally, as one step toward greater progress in this area of religious liberty, I would urge you to raise the matter of China's beginning substantive dialogue with a representative of the Holy See on the subject of normalizing relations between the two parties. Full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Beijing may be well down the road, but the presence of a Vatican representative who could dialogue with China's senior leadership could be of enormous help in reducing tensions and increasing mutual understanding.
With every good wish, I am
Most Reverend Theodore E. McCarrick
Archbishop of Newark
Chairman, USCC Committee on International Policy