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In a blog entry on Friday, Cdl. Joseph Zen, the emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, ripped into Cdl. Pietro Parolin, the Vatican's secretary of state, regarding a speech the secretary delivered Oct. 3 at a conference called "Another China: Time of Crisis, Time of Change." The conference, organized by the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) was celebrating 150 years of missionary life in China.
"I read the speech given by Cdl. Parolin, secretary of state of His Holiness, in Milan on Oct. 3. It was sickening!" Zen exclaimed. "He is in no way stupid or ignorant, [so] he [must have] told a series of lies with open eyes."
"The most repugnant thing was the insult to the emeritus Pope Benedict XVI by saying that he approved then the agreement signed by the Holy See two years ago, knowing that our sweetest, most gentle Benedict certainly will not come out to deny it," Zen accused Parolin.
The cardinal, noted for his piety, further accused Parolin.
"Parolin knows he himself is lying. He knows that I know he is a liar ... He is not just shameless but also daring," he admonished. "What will he not dare to do now? I think he is not even afraid of his conscience."
In his speech, Parolin projected the China-Vatican agreement as a "pastoral" not a "political" project and admitted "Some misunderstandings have arisen."
Some of these, he explained, come from "attributing objectives to the provisional agreement that simply do not apply to it; others, from linking the agreement to events in the life of the Church in China that are foreign to it, or to political issues that have nothing to do with the agreement."
Cardinal Parolin claimed there were signs the deal was helping unify the underground Church and the state-backed Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association despite the "misunderstandings" that cannot all be addressed at once.
Parolin claimed regarding the secret agreement made first in 2018 and recently renewed that "In these two years, I have noticed signs of growing closeness among Chinese Catholics who have long been divided on many issues."
But multiple sources have poked holes in Parolin's observation.
A U.S. congressional report issued early in 2020 confirmed increased and intensifying persecution of Chinese Catholics in the wake of the 2018 China-Vatican agreement.
The report, issued by the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, found that "After the PRC [People's Republic of China] Ministry of Foreign Affairs signed an agreement with the Holy See, local Chinese authorities subjected Catholic believers in China to increasing persecution by demolishing churches, removing crosses and continuing to detain underground clergy."
The report further confirmed communist officials have "doubled down on the 'sinicization' of religion — [in] a campaign that aims to bring religion in China under closer official control and into conformity with officially sanctioned interpretations of Chinese culture."
Church Militant recently reported on the crushing resignation of Bp. Vincenzo Guo Xijin of the Mindong diocese who, after years of torture and imprisonment by the CCP, announced on Oct. 4 his decision to disappear from public life and retire to a life of prayer rather than surrender to the trap of the CCP-Vatican agreement.
Guo's decision, seen as a casualty of the agreement, is, AsiaNews conjectured, an attempt to save the unity of the diocesan church under the CCP-appointed Bp. Zhan Silu.
Bitter Winter reported Thursday on stealthy methods used by the CCP to push churches and temples into extinction under the pretext of their failure to comply with state regulations.
The magazine, devoted to religious liberty and human rights in China, explained the conundrum: All religious venues must be certified by the state to operate. But now the state is refusing to issue certificates and is using the absence of a certificate as a pretext to close down or even demolish religious venues.
Zen lamented that the second most powerful figure in the Vatican — one who has been tagged as front-runner as a successor to Francis — is lacking in a spiritual dimension. "I am afraid [Parolin] does not even have faith," he said.
Zen said he got this impression when Parolin gave a commemorative speech in honor of Cdl. Agostino Casaroli — noted for his willingness to accommodate communist regimes.
"When you look for bishops, you don't look for 'gladiators,' who systematically oppose the government and who like to show themselves off on the political stage," Zen remembers Parolin saying in the speech.
"I wrote to [Parolin], asking if he intended to describe Cdl. [Stefan] Wyszyński, Cdl. [József] Mindszenty and Cdl. [Josef] Beran" — all anti-communist prelates — as showing themselves off on a political stage, Zen explained.
"He replied without denying," Zen put forth in his blog.
"He only said that if I was displeased with his speech, he apologized," Zen wrote. "But one who despises the heroes of faith has no faith!"