Catholic World News

Hong Kong prelates, past and present, reflect on Vatican-Beijing talks

August 04, 2016

The present and past bishops of Hong Kong have offered in-depth reflections on the relationship between China and the Vatican, in lengthy articles for the AsiaNews service.

Cardinal John Tong and his predecessor, Cardinal Joseph Zen, agree that the position of the Catholic Church remains governed by the princples set forth by Pope Benedict XVI in his letter to the Church in China. The two cardinals also agree on the necessity of continuing dialogue with Beijing-- although they express different levels of concern about the current status of that dialogue.

Cardinal Tong explains that the negotiations are aimed at ensuring religious freedom in China and establishing unity within the Church on the mainland. The Vatican, he writes, has "responded with persistent humilty and patience rather than hostile words," avoiding confronting, in an effort to reassure Chinese officials that the Vatican has no interest in involvement in the nation's political affairs. However, the cardinal says, the Holy See remains committed to the independence of the Church, and cannot recognize the authority of the government-controlled Patriotic Association.

Cardinal Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong, who has been outspoken in his criticism of the Beijing regime, responds energetically to charges that he has become an opponent of Pope Francis. He insists that he remains fully loyal to the Holy See, and observes that official Vatican policy remains controlled by Pope Benedict's letter. 

However, Cardinal Zen voices his deep concern about the quiet talks between Vatican officials and their Chinese counterparts, saying that Chinese Catholics have not been kept informed about the content of those negotiations. Even a commission established by the Vatican to oversee talks with China has not been briefed, he says.

Cardinal Zen says that despite his advancing age and declining health, he cannot remain silent but will be a "voice for the voiceless" in defending the freedom of Chinese Catholics. 



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