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Cardinal Zen lashes out at Vatican willingness to accommodate Beijing

Catholic World News - April 01, 2011

Cardinal Joseph Zen has issued a bitter complaint against Church officials who seek to reach accommodation with the Chinese regime.

The retired Archbishop of Hong Kong argues that the Catholic bishops of China should be urged to resist pressure from Beijing, rather than encouraged to avoid confrontation.

Cardinal Zen—who has been the leading voice of Catholicism in opposition to China’s efforts to control the Church—says that mixed signals from the Vatican are partly responsible for the fact that many bishops who profess loyalty to Rome participated in an illicit ordination of a government-backed bishop in November, and in the election of new leaders for the Catholic Patriotic Association: a group which Pope Benedict has denounced as divisive. The cardinal said that in the absence of clear guidance from Rome, many Chinese bishops are apt to follow commands from Beijing.

“Our bishops needed some supply of courage,” Cardinal Zen says, referring to the hierarchy in China. “But instead they received much misplaced compassion, which pushed them deeper and deeper into the mire of slavish subjection.”

Cardinal Zen’s provocative statement is a direct criticism of Father Jeroom Heyndrickx, a Sinologist at the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium and influential adviser to the Vatican. But his arguments clearly imply criticism of other senior officials at the Vatican, especially at the Congregation for Evangelization and the Secretariat of State. He rejects the hope that clever Vatican policies of “ostpolitik” will bring genuine religious freedom to China, and insists that a similar policy, aimed at accommodation with the Soviet Union, was rejected by Pope John Paul II. Cardinal Zen notes that the same Pope John Paul II refuses to postpone the canonization of Chinese martyrs, despite heavy pressure from Beijing.

“Dialogue and compromise are necessary, but there must be a bottom line,” Cardinal Zen says. “We cannot renounce the principles of our faith and our basic ecclesiastical discipline, just to please the Beijing government.”

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Show 3 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Steve214 - Apr. 03, 2011 7:10 PM ET USA

    Oh, but there is just so much GOOD in the world--everywhere!--is there not? The whole world is just longing for the truth! All conflicts are just a misunderstanding! And we really can eliminate all wars and poverty--surely we've repealed original sin? At least happy talk is what we've heard some 50 years now.

  • Posted by: Defender - Apr. 02, 2011 1:04 AM ET USA

    It's unfortunate that the Vatican has practiced so much wishful thinking in recent years, it has allowed the Chinese government to do what they want while supposedly negotiating in the background. The cardinal has been in the foreground of all these efforts and has seen how the communist government acts and reacts. There is no freedom of the press, speech or religion - China talks a great deal, but imprisons those who may stray. China understands hardball - the Vatican and the U.S. must, too.

  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Apr. 01, 2011 5:17 PM ET USA

    Cardinal Zen is exactly right. This was the problem with Ostpolitik and is now a problem with Sinopolitik. Diplomacy relies on expediency; the Church must rely on the truth and diplomacy must serve and cede to the truth.

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