Chinese Bishop Hopes '08 Olympics Helps Religion

Communism Losing Its Allure, Says Hong Kong Prelate

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KOENIGSTEIN, Germany, SEPT. 19, 2005 ( The Olympics in China could provide the crucial spark for religious freedom in that country, says a report published by the group Aid to the Church in Need.

The report is based on comments by Auxiliary Bishop John Tong of Hong Kong, who believes that the 2008 games could give China’s beleaguered faithful a much-needed boost.

While warning the faithful not to raise their hopes too high, Bishop John Tong said: «Hosting the 2008 Olympic Games may help China to become more open. … I would expect a little bit more religious tolerance.»

In an interview with Aid to the Church in Need at its headquarters here, Bishop Tong, 66, also said: «Nowadays, even many party members in China do not believe in communism any more; they rather believe in money and themselves.»

The bishop’s comments came as the European Union called for an end to religious oppression in China.

Ahead of upcoming EU-China discussions on human rights, the union’s Parliament urged China to stop its heavy sanction on religious activities, the punishments for which include house arrest, imprisonment and the demolition of church buildings.


The prospects for religious freedom in the country remain uncertain, amid confusion over whether four Chinese bishops will be allowed to attend a synod next month in Rome.

One of the invited delegates, Bishop Joseph Wei Jingyi of Qiqiher, is from the «underground» Church, some of whose hierarchy are not recognized by the government.

Bishop Tong stressed the importance of the Chinese delegation attending the synod. He said that even if only one or two of them are permitted to travel to Rome, it would still represent a measure of progress.

The bishop said that since the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong back to China in 1997, relaxed work- visa restrictions had boosted missionary activity.

He stated that the prospects for evangelization in Hong Kong were «quite optimistic,» reporting that in the last few years there were more than 4,000 baptisms annually, including 2,000 adults.

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