Cdl. Zen Criticizes Rome-Beijing Negotiations

by Stefan Farrar  •  •  November 28, 2016   

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HONG KONG ( - Cardinal Joseph Zen is re-affirming his opposition to negotiations between the Vatican and China. On November 21, in an interview with the German Bishops' official website, Zen criticized the Vatican for leaving the faithful in China behind who aren't willing to submit to the Communist government.

"The Church may not refuse a dialogue, and She may also make compromises," he remarked. "But there are limits. We cannot be compliant toward the regime in Beijing. They want everything, they want a capitulation."

Zen is referring to the current negotiations on the ordination of bishops in China, which has long been a sticking point between Rome and Beijing.

In 1957, China's Religious Affairs Bureau officially established the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPCA), which was founded on the basis of non-interference by foreign powers in China's affairs. That meant that the Chinese Catholic hierarchy was expected to follow the Protestant model in China, which was one of self-governance and self-support.

Since 1957, the Chinese government has appointed bishops without Vatican approval, and this has led to a state-approved Catholic following, separate from the underground Catholic following faithful to Rome.

The CPCA doesn't recognize the authority of the Pope, as foreign influence isn't allowed in any government-run organization. In 1958, Pope Pius XII declared all consecrations of bishops through the CPCA valid but the bishops themselves excommunicated for acting outside the authority of the Church.

Since 1957, the CPCA and Rome have had a volatile relationship, which was seen recently in the excommunication of the bishop of Shantou in 2011. The CPCA appointed Joseph Huang Bingzhang as bishop there without approval from Rome, and this led to his immediate excommunication.

Recently, negotiations between Rome and Beijing have reached an historic high point, with the Vatican poised to recognize two bishops slated to be ordained by the Catholic Patriotic Association before the end of the year. According to a report, the Vatican is deciding to go along with the Chinese government's appointment of four bishops, which would be at odds with the position the Vatican has taken for the past 60 years.

Zen is wary of such developments, however. "There are many good priests and bishops in the Chinese Church," he commented. "But they have to obey the state; they are being led by the nose by the government. One day, the faithful will realize that they are no shepherds, but only representatives of the state."

Earlier this year, Zen spoke out against the possibility of Beijing having the power to appoint Bishops. His reaction was in response to Cdl. John Tong Hon, who's in favor of increased dialogue between the Vatican and the Chinese government. In addition, Zen believes such a rapprochement would abandon and betray those faithful to Rome in China.

The cardinal went on to say,

The Church has to defend freedom. How shall the people tomorrow still have respect for the Church when she does not today defend the freedom and stop the persecution of the faithful? All these years of compromise have weakened the position of the Church. The Church, on the contrary, should encourage the faithful to be strong, to practice resistance.


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