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February 13, 2002
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
At the end of August last year, my predecessor as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, wrote to you concerning your then up-coming trip to China. Since much of your planned visit had to be postponed because of the attacks of September 11, allow me to share with you, once again, the concerns and hopes of the Catholic Bishops of the United States for your re-scheduled visit to the Peoples Republic of China.
First, I wish to express our pleasure that the visit to China is taking place. We consider this an important opportunity to engage that great nation, some of whose policies over the past half century have, unfortunately, wrought so much pain and suffering for many.
I know you will stress clearly in your meetings with the Chinese leadership our country's abiding concern over Chinas dismal record on human rights and religious freedom. Members of many religious and spiritual groups, from Tibetan Buddhists, House Church Evangelicals, practitioners of Falungong, and millions of Roman Catholics have paid dearly for their beliefs. Those in prison or other confinement for their faith must be released.
While urging you to do all you can to press the authorities to protect the basic human rights of the Chinese who today suffer religious and political discrimination and even persecution, I would make a special appeal for your intervention on a matter of deep concern both to the Holy See and to the Catholic Church in the United States. It is the question of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and the Peoples Republic of China.
Among the essential elements of the Catholic faith, and a sign of effective and complete freedom of religious practice, is the ability of Catholics to maintain a visible bond of communion with the Pope. The local Church must be free to organize itself, and to maintain bonds of communion and lines of communication with the Holy See, as well as with their fellow believers in the universal Church. The presence of an official representative of the Holy See should help dispel misunderstandings and enhance the freedom of religious believers in China.
Grateful for whatever you can do to further these goals, and assuring you of prayer for the success of your important mission, I remain
Most Reverend Wilton D. Gregory
Bishop of Belleville
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