HONG KONG — Cardinal Joseph Zen again had harsh words for the Vatican Friday, saying that the proposed deal between the Vatican and the Chinese government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association was not in the best interests of Chinese Catholics.
The Catholic Church in China is divided into the illegal “underground” Church, which remains faithful and in communion with Rome, and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, whose bishops are appointed by the government. Members of the underground church are often persecuted by the Chinese government.
The agreement would reportedly legitimize the bishops of the Catholic Patriotic Association, and would force the underground church’s bishops into retirement. Cardinal Zen has been outspoken in recent weeks against the Vatican’s deal with the Chinese church.
Cardinal Zen is the emeritus archbishop of Hong Kong.
The Vatican and China have not had formal relations for the past 70 years, when the communist government took control in the country in 1951. The Chinese government is officially atheist, although there are a handful of state-approved churches in the country.
At a news conference Cardinal Zen expressed concern that despite assurances that Pope Francis would have final approval of over who is made a bishop in China, the Chinese government will still only nominate candidates who would be loyal and obedient to the government, Reuters reported.
He criticized the possible agreement as something that might sound “wonderful,” but is actually just “fake.”
He continued, “They are not going to make good choices for the Church ... surely they choose the one they prefer, which means the one who always obeys the government. So how [could] the Holy Father approve such a choice?”
“Okay, he can veto. How many times? It takes courage to veto the second time, the third time, five times,” Cardinal Zen said.
He said that he fears that Pope Francis hasn’t been informed about the reality of the situation of the Church in China, and that he thinks the Vatican may be too quick to make an agreement with China.
But, said Cardinal Zen — the current agreement is nothing more than a surrender on the Vatican’s part.
“I am not judging their conscience but ... it’s a surrender and they have no right to surrender.”