The Vatican official in charge of evangelization is hailing Chinese priests and bishops for their testimony of unity with the Church, while recalling that ruptures in communion are a consequence of sin.

Cardinal Ivan Dias, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, addressed the bishops and priests of mainland China in a July 5 letter released today.

Addressing the Chinese, the cardinal observed: “Your testimony and your messages received here at the missionary congregation fill us with consolation and spur us to pray fervently that the Lord may render you ever stronger in the faith and sustain your activity to propagate the Good News of Jesus Christ in your beloved country.”

In speaking of the importance of bishops and priests as “operators of unity,” he highlighted the essential element of communion with the Holy Father.

“We are all too aware of how some of you suffered in the recent past because of loyalty to the Holy See,” the cardinal affirmed. “We pay homage to each and all. […] The exemplary and courageous loyalty towards the See of Peter demonstrated by Catholics in China is a precious gift of the Lord.”

Turning to another dimension of unity, that among individual members of the ecclesial community, Cardinal Dias hailed the Chinese because “[t]his important challenge you are already tackling.”

The cardinal noted how insistently Jesus exhorted his followers to unity “as a sign of credibility that he has been sent by the Father into the world.” And he urged the Chinese bishops and priests to “heed this eloquent call for the unity of Christians coming from the Heart of the One who loved them, called them and sent them to work in his Vineyard.”

Ruptures to unity “are in fact symptoms of the power of sin that continues to act in members of the Church even after the redemption,” the cardinal stated.

“Let us praise the Lord for your efforts, accomplished and ongoing, for unity within the Church,” Cardinal Dias continued, “in faithful response to the indications given by the Holy Father in the Letter he addressed to you on May 27, 2007, and for the results already obtained.”