VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Cardinal Joseph Zen has shot down a Vatican letter denouncing his opposition to the 2018 China-Vatican agreement.
In an open letter Sunday, Zen responded to Cdl. Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the College of Cardinals, who in a Feb. 26 letter accused him of being an obstacle to the Church in China.
Appointed dean in January, Re claimed a continuity between Francis' approach to China and that of recent predecessors: "In their approach to the situation of the Catholic Church in China, there is a profound symphony of the thought and action of the last three pontificates, which out of respect for the truth have favored dialogue between the two parties, not opposition."
In response to this claim, Zen quotes from Benedict XVI's book titled Final Conversations:
The new line pursued by John Paul II was the result of his personal experience, of contact with those powers. Of course then it could not be hoped that the regime would collapse soon, but it was evident that, instead of being conciliatory and accepting compromises, it was necessary to strongly oppose. This was the basic vision of John Paul II, which I shared.
Re also claimed, "Pope Benedict XVI had approved the draft of the agreement on the appointment of bishops in China, which it was only possible to sign in 2018."
In response to this assertion, Zen gave the simplest way to solve the matter. "To prove that the signed agreement had already been approved by Benedict XVI," he said, "just show me the signed text, which I have not been allowed to see to date, and the evidence from the archive, which you have been able to verify. It remains only to be explained why it was not signed then."
Members of the Catholic Patriotic Association, an arm of the Chinese Communist Party, can no longer be seen as separate from the Pope, according to Re, who said "the expression 'independent Church' can no longer be interpreted in an absolute manner as 'separation' from the Pope, as was the case in the past."
Cardinal Zen responded to this wordplay by saying "change in the meaning of the word 'independence' I fear exists only in the head of the eminent Secretary of State," adding the reason could be because of "an incorrect translation from Chinese made by ... the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples ... who was also responsible for at least 10 errors in the translation of Pope Benedict's 2007 letter."
Zen has found an ally in Vatican whistleblower Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, who on Saturday came to the cardinal's defense, calling Re's accusations "ignominious and shameful."
In a letter to Zen, Viganò condemned Re's "ignoble letter to all the cardinals," saying it "is aimed at accusing ... denigrating ... and isolating [Cdl. Zen]."
Viganò neatly summarized what continues to play out between the Vatican and China:
The Vatican has done everything and more to deliver the Chinese martyr Church into the hands of the enemy: it did so by signing the secret pact; it did so by legitimizing excommunicated 'bishops' who are agents of the regime; it did so by the deposition of legitimate bishops; it did so by forcing faithful priests to register with a church that has succumbed to the Communist dictatorship; it does so on a daily basis by keeping silent about the persecutory fury that has gained unprecedented strength, precisely since the signing of that unfortunate agreement. It is now doing so with this ignoble letter to all the cardinals ... .
Writing originally for the Daily Compass, Riccardo Cascioli states Re's letter "is truly a call to his brother cardinals to isolate Cardinal Zen, even to the point of making one think that the elimination of the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong is part of the secret agreement."
"Cardinal Re should explain to us why it is that persecution against Catholics in China has intensified since the agreement was signed while the Holy See has remained completely silent," he adds. "And he should also explain why the Patriotic Association, now recognized by the Holy See, has never expressed so much as a desire for communion with Rome."
Viganò offered Zen all his affection, prayers and fraternal solidarity in the episcopate.
"You [Cdl. Zen] are a courageous confessor of the Faith and you have all my esteem and veneration!" said Viganò.