The Conversion Agenda

"Freedom to convert" is counterproductive as a generalized doctrine. It fails to come to terms with the complex interrelationships between self and society that make the concept of individual choice meaningful. Hence, religious conversion undermines, and in extremes would dissolve, that individual autonomy and human freedom.

Monday, March 28, 2005

China says Vatican's Newest Saints were Sinners, Rapists

Associated Press Writer
(10-01) 09:22 PDT BEIJING (AP)

China on Sunday proclaimed its ``utmost indignation'' at the pope for bestowing sainthood on 120 Catholics who died under Chinese religious persecution, saying they were ``evil-doing sinners'' guilty of rape and plunder.

The condemnation by the Foreign Ministry was echoed by the leader of China's state-run Catholic church, Bishop Fu Tieshan, who called the canonization ceremony led by Pope John Paul II on Sunday in Rome ``intolerable.''

``Some of those canonized by the Vatican this time perpetrated outrages such as raping and looting in China and committed unforgivable crimes against the Chinese people,'' the Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried by the official Xinhua News Agency.

In a separate statement, the government released the names of two saints it said ``committed monstrous crimes in China.''

One was Albericus Crescitelli -- a Vatican Web site gave the first name Alberico -- described as an Italian missionary who died in the anti-Western, anti-Christian Boxer uprising a century ago.

Crescitelli ``was notorious for taking the 'right of the first night' of each bride under his diocese,'' the State Administration of Religious Affairs said in the statement, also run by Xinhua.

The statement also brought up an example often cited by Western and Chinese scholars: Auguste Chapdelaine, a French missionary whose execution by the Chinese the French used as a pretext for attacks on China beginning in 1857.

The pope declared the 120 -- 87 Chinese Catholics, the rest foreign missionaries -- martyrs because they died for their faith, mostly at the hands of the Boxers.

The Vatican's choice of Sunday as the date for the ceremony also outraged Chinese officials and religious leaders because it falls on the 51st anniversary of communist rule in China.

Earlier Sunday, Fu told worshippers in Beijing's South Cathedral that Sunday should be a rallying point for Chinese.

``Today is National Day, and more than ever Chinese Catholics should stand with the nation,'' Fu said at morning services in the high-vaulted church, built in 1904 on a site where Catholics have worshipped in Beijing for more than 300 years.

Fu's sentiments were repeated among worshippers at South Cathedral, which was burned to the ground by the superstitious Boxers, who are praised by the Communist Party as forerunners of the revolution.

``Saints should be role models, but these were criminals against the Chinese people. This is an insult to China and an insult to the Chinese Catholics,'' a churchgoer said.

China broke ties with the Vatican in 1951 and demands Catholics worship only in churches approved by the official China Patriotic Catholic Association. The official church claims 4 million believers but an equal number worship in an underground church loyal to the Vatican and relentlessly persecuted.

The Vatican has denied that Sunday's ceremony was politically motivated. Vatican officials have said Sunday was chosen, not because it was China's National Day, but because it marks the feast of Saint Therese of Lisieux, patron saint of missionaries.


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