Catholic World News

Cardinal Zen pleads against Vatican ‘surrender’ to Beijing control

November 04, 2016

Cardinal Joseph Zen has issued a dramatic warning against a proposed agreement that, he fears, would give the Chinese government control over the Catholic Church.

With multiple reports suggesting that an accord between Rome and Beijing in imminent, and that the Holy See will recognize bishops who had been installed by the Chinese regime without Vatican approval, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong warned that the agreement could make the Church “totally subservient to an atheist government.”

In a conversation with the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Zen voiced his fears that the Vatican is ready to surrender important principles “in the hopes of achieving an agreement.” He also expressed misgivings about the apparent desire of Pope Francis to reach an accord. “I’m sorry to say that in his goodwill he has done many things which are simply ridiculous,” the Chinese cardinal said of the Pontiff.

“Pope Francis has no real knowledge of communism,” the cardinal told the Journal. He observed that during his youth in Argentina, the Pope saw Communists as the objects of persecution, rather than as persecutors. In China, he said, the Church has endured Communist persecution.

Under the proposed agreement the Vatican would reportedly recognize most of the bishops installed by the Chinese regime. In return, Beijing would acknowledge the right of the Holy See to appoint new bishops. However those bishops would be chosen from a list furnished by the government-backed Patriotic Catholic Association. Thus the government could control episcopal appointments, nominating only candidates who were prepared to recognize the government’s authority. Also, the agreement reportedly does not resolve the status of the “underground” bishops and priests who are now subject to government harassment and arrest.

Cardinal Zen said that he realizes most of the bishops of the “official” Catholic Church recognized by Beijing are “very faithful to the Church.” Nevertheless, he insisted, they are “puppets” of the Beijing regime. “I would prefer no bishops,” Cardinal Zen said.

In a related development, a noted Chinese priest, blogging under an assumed name, made a similar argument:

Some have said that the negotiations between China and the Vatican have come at the expense of the underground Church. In fact, if the pope grants Beijing the right to appoint bishops, then the entire Church in China will be sacrificed. “For the good of the Church in China” the Church in China will be sacrificed, handing its sacred authority over to an atheistic government. I don’t think the Vatican can take such a step in such a flippant manner!


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  • Posted by: Lucius49 - Nov. 04, 2016 3:22 PM ET USA

    The Pope should listen to Card.Zen and not repeat the disastrous Ostpolitik with its betrayal of Cardinal Mindzenty and martyrs under communism. Ostpolitik meant no public Vatican criticism of communist regimes,and endless negotiations with them. It came close to destroying Catholicism in Hungary where, by mid 1970 the Church leadership was owned/operated by the Hungarian communists.In Czechoslovakia, the Ostpolitik weakened Catholic witness and produced clerical collaborators with the regime.