On March 28, 2000, on behalf of the Cardinal Kung Foundation, I wrote an open letter to the Vatican. In this letter, I raised a number of what we considered very critical, confusing and complicated issues regarding the Roman Catholic Church in China that we did not understand. We earnestly requested the Vatican for clarification. The Vatican never answered.

Today, we are very happy to read Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to the Roman Catholics in China, because this letter answered many if not all issues that I raised more than seven years ago. They are good answers. Thank you, Your Holiness.

We are most grateful for the Holy Father’s deep love for the Chinese Catholic community. He says in his letter that “many (Chinese) bishops have undergone persecution “..and some of them have made the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood.” He reiterates that the Catholic Church always exhorts Catholics “to be good citizens” and asks the Chinese government likewise” .. to guarantee “.. authentic religious freedom.” Referring to the clandestine pastors, he requests the government to recognize them so that “they may be able to express their faith freely.”

While the Pontiff urges Catholics in China to practice love and unity, and to unite under the Successor of Peter, he declares that the Catholic Patriotic Association’s declared independence of the Holy See is incompatible with Catholic doctrine. This clears many questions. The Pontiff does not recognize the Patriotic Bishops Conference because it fails to include the clandestine bishops and includes other illegitimate bishops. Pope Benedict pointed out that legitimized bishops need to provide unequivocal and increasing signs of full communion with the Successor of Peter. With great love, he longs for other illegitimate bishops to enter into communion with the Successor of Peter with the necessary conditions to be established.

One underground bishop in China wrote that he is extremely happy in reading this letter from the Pope because God has used this opportunity to affirm that what they had done in the past was correct. They are aware of many difficulties ahead. But, in order to be loyal and obedient to our Lord and His representative on earth, they are prepared to “make the Church fruitful with the shedding of their blood” as Pope Benedict XVI has said.

This is a landmark document providing broad guidelines for the bishops and Catholics to move forward. It also recognizes the great difficulty that still exists in China today. His Holiness has spoken as the Successor of Peter. The clandestine bishops are most grateful to the Pope. They renewed their loyalty and obedience to Pope Benedict XVI by promising to carefully study the letter so that they can implement the Holy Father’s wishes.

Joseph Kung

Cardinal Kung Foundation

June 30, 2007