Archbishop McCarrick traveled to China, along with Protestant and Jewish leaders, at the suggestion of Chinese leader Jiang Zemin, who issued the invitation during his visit with President Clinton last October. After a three-week stay, and the formal release of their report at a press conference in New York earlier this week, the archbishop discussed the state of Chinese Catholicism with the Italian newspaper Avvenire.
"The whole world already knows that religious liberty is limited in China, that there are official churches registered by the government and independent underground churches, and that many of them have been subject to persecution," Archbishop McCarrick said. However, he said that "religious freedom will come, because the Chinese people want it."
Although his mission was dedicated to fact-finding, the archbishop said that he and his colleagues were able to establish a dialogue with Chinese government leaders on questions of religious freedom, and they sought to make the Communist leadership understand that Western opinion made religious freedom a high priority. The American delegates demanded the release of a list of prisoners of conscience, and an end to the practice of forcing religious bodies to enroll with the state. The Chinese government has not responded to those demands.
After his trip to China, Archbishop McCarrick visited Rome to discuss the visit with Pope John Paul II. He reported that the Pope had expressed his own desire to visit China at some future date, and his belief that the faith would enjoy a great revival in Asia during the coming millennium.