Imagine the courage it would take to travel for hours to attend a secret Mass in someone’s home, not knowing if this time you and your family will be arrested and the priest sent to a prison camp. Imagine the courage it takes to just own a Bible or a cross in a place where that is punishable by death or imprisonment.
We in the West take our freedom of religion for granted. Those in China and other countries around the world do not. While we whine that we have to go to Mass, or that the priest’s homily is too long, or that people are not dressing appropriately for Mass – people in countries that suppress Christianity are dying. Christians in communist China, especially Catholics, are seriously persecuted. Bishops and priests spend their lives in prison or labor camps because being Roman Catholic is illegal.
I read this today with both joy and sadness: Chinese underground bishop Yao dies at 87. Sadness because of what this man, Leon Yao Liang, had to endure most of his life, joy because now he is finally in heaven.
Yao was ordained a priest in 1946 and assigned as assistant pastor, said the Kung foundation, based in Stamford, Connecticut.
Yao’s religious activities came under increasing restrictions after the 1949 seizure of power by the officially atheistic Communist Party, which reviled Catholicism both as a religion and as a reminder of China’s past weakness in the face of expansionist European powers.
As the political climate worsened, Yao was forced into a labor camp in 1956, and two years later, sentenced to life imprisonment for refusing to renounce his loyalty to Rome, the foundation said.
He was “released” in 1984, but released just meant he traded one captivity for another.
As you go about your day today, please pray for Bishop Yao and for those in China and other countries that Christianity is outlawed or persecuted. You can read more about the situation in China and what you can do to help by going to the Cardinal Kung Foundation website.