- The Washington Times - Monday, October 2, 2000

VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II declared sainthood yesterday for 120 Chinese and foreign missionaries killed in the church's five-century struggle in China. In Beijing, an angry government called the martyrs "evil-doing sinners" and their canonization "an open insult."
Naming of the church's first Chinese saints threatened to worsen already stiff relations with China, which is combating Vatican-allied Roman Catholicism and other banned spiritual movements it sees as challenges to its authority.
The date of the canonizations was an outrage to China falling on China's National Day celebrating 51 years of Communist rule. So was their chosen subject: 87 Chinese and 33 foreigners, most killed in what China still views as the righteous 1900 Boxer Rebellion against foreign imperialism and religions.
John Paul, looking wan and tired on a rainy morning in St. Peter's Square, insisted "the celebration is not the time to make judgments."
"The church only intends to recognize that those martyrs are an example of courage and coherence for all of us, and give honor to the noble Chinese people," the pope said.
John Paul named three other new saints as well, all nuns: one-time socialite Katharine Drexel, who devoted her life and inheritance to founding schools for American Indians and blacks; one-time Sudanese slave Guiseppine Bahkita; and Maria Josefa del Corazon de Jesus Sancho de Guerra, the first saint of Spain's troubled Basque people.
China's Communist leaders ordered Catholics to renounce loyalty to the pope in the 1950s. Religious and human rights groups regularly report arrests of clergy who attempt to worship outside the state-monitored official Catholic church.
"Today is National Day, and more than ever Chinese Catholics should stand with the nation," Bishop Fu Tieshan, the state-appointed bishop in Beijing, told worshippers yesterday morning at the Chinese capital's South Cathedral.
"Choosing this date to canonize the so-called 'saints' is an open insult and humiliation against the Chinese Catholic adherents," Bishop Fu was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.
China's Foreign Ministry denounced the newly canonized as "evil-doing sinners."
"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 ministry said in a statement carried by Xinhua.
John Paul took note of the underground Chinese Catholics unable to attend yesterday's ceremony. "I wish to assure you once more that I pray for you every day," he told his far-off followers.
John Paul singled out for notice such martyrs as 18-year-old Chi Zhuzi, who proclaimed to those preparing to skin him alive in the Boxer Rebellion: "Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will repeat for you that I am a Christian."
The Vatican has denied that the ceremony was politically motivated. Vatican officials say yesterday 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.
The mass ceremony brought to 447 the number of saints added to church rolls in John Paul's 22-year papacy.
The 80-year-old pontiff has named more saints than all his predecessors of the past 500 years combined, viewing sainthood as a way to point out role models for Catholics and bring recognition to the church in different countries.

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