June 15, 1998
President William Jefferson Clinton
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
As you prepare for your visit to the People's Republic of China, permit me to add my voice to that of many others in urging as strongly as I can that you give priority to the issue of religious freedom in your meetings with the leaders of that nation. Your recent public address about your upcoming trip, given to an array of China scholars and others concerned about our relations with that most populous nation on earth, was eloquent testimony both to the reasons why your visit should go forward and to your evident deep concern about China's inadequate attention to the protection of peoples' fundamental rights, among which religious liberty is the cornerstone. I welcome the assurance that you will press your Chinese interlocutors vigorously on the need to change their clearly outmoded fear of religious freedom.
You invited Archbishop Theodore McCarrick, the Chairman of our Conference's Committee on International Policy, together with the Reverend Donald Argue and Rabbi Arthur Schneier, to accept President Jiang Zemin's invitation to visit China, which the three religious leaders did in February. I believe that their visit accomplished what it set out to do, namely to communicate to the leaders of the Chinese government the proper concerns that religious believers throughout the world have about China's sorry record of intolerance and persecution of so many millions of Christians, Buddhists and Muslims within the confines of their territory.
I pray that your visit will greatly reinforce that message, and will give heart to the many in China who long only to express their deepest faith convictions without fear of repression. I trust that you will impress upon the Chinese leadership the fact that amicable relations with this country, a nation founded on the principles of religious freedom and tolerance, will depend very significantly on their ability to leave behind a shameful past of religious persecution and join the family of nations that respects the rights of each to worship God as conscience dictates.
With assurances of prayer for the success of your important mission, I remain
Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla
Bishop of Cleveland