Expellees' procession over the bridge to Hong Kong
OVER the railway bridge that separates the vast domain of Communist China from the
British colony of Hong Kong there passes a daily procession of expellees, each one with a tragic story of Christian charity repaid by the country's new rulers in cynicism and cruelty.
Among those who crossed the bridge or came out of China by other means last month were :
A ninety-one year old blind min, who had given sixty years of
her life to China ; Two priests who had been charged with "inciting lepers to revolt "; Another priest who, when he was thought to be dying in jail, was put, in readiness, in the prison mortuary where he heard the last confession of a lapsed Catholic who lay next to him.
MOTHER Stigmate, a blind, ninety-one year old Franciscan missionary of Mary, accused by Communists of having com mitted " more crimes than could possibly be computed" was carried by her companions across the bridge.
After sixty years apostolic labour in Shensi Province, she had been forced out of the mission, along with 3 other nuns, by the confiscation of their orphanage and residence, and then expelled.
Mother Stigmate has been blind for twenty-five years. Bent and fragile with age. she was carried by her companions when they alighted from the train in Schumchun railroad terminal on the Communist side of the border.
Neither age nor blindness mitigated the brusque attitude of the teen-age officials as they searched the nuns.
F' . Robert Lebas, Fr. Bernard Blusson and six Sisters arrived in Haiphong, French Indochina, after their expulsion.
They had been arraigned before a "public court" on August 6 at Chankiang, former French Colony in Southern Kwangtung Province, given suspended jail sentences and ordered to be deported.
The charges included maltreating and killing infants in the Catholic Orphanage. giving infants and children slavish education, distributing anti-democratic and counter revolutionary publications. inciting lepers to revolt against the people's government and attempting to oppose the people's government.
The "slavish education" and "inciting lepers to revolt" charges arose out of the orphans' and lepers' bitter resentment over the discharge of Sisters and priests from these institutions conducted by Catholic Missions,
Said Fr. Lebas. from Lille, France, upon his arrival: "We have lost everything we possessed except the desire to return to continue the work we have carried on for 21 years."
pOR preaching an Easter sermon 'a that encouraged the faithful to stand firm during persecution, trusting in Our Lord's promise that lie would be with His Church until the end of time, Fr. Paul Le Baron, Paris Foreign Missionary in Kwangtung Province. was thrown into jail and expelled from the country, and has now "crossed the bridge.'
The fifty year old bearded priest, his body gaunt from a long siege of dysentry he suffered in prison, was put in a hospital immediately upon his arrival in Hong Kong.
He told how, whilst a prisoner, he was bound like a criminal and forced to walk barefooted to the next larger village.
There he was put with some others into a single room. The prisoners themselves bathed his feet and tore bandages from their own bed covering to wrap them in.
After weeks with dysentry he was put, too weak to rise. in the mortuary and placed next to a halfdead young man. He was a lapsed Catholic.
"He made his confession and I comforted him as best I could," said the priest.
"The third morning someone came and prodded the corpse next to rue and rolled it over. 'How do you feel.' I was asked. I replied I was much better, and in fact. I was. I am sure the two days I spent in the morgue were for the sake of this dying Catholic lad."
"When my trial came, I was barely able to stand. I learned that the accusation was still the Easter sermon, that I was charged with saying: 'Communism would not last.' I was sentenced to eight years imprisonment. But the judge continued: 'Chairman Mao is very indulgent. You are going to be expelled immediately.'