VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - Pope Francis reportedly pulled the plug on pro-Hong Kong comments to be delivered after the midday Angelus recitation — leading to accusations of being gagged by Beijing.
Vatican journalist Marco Tosatti revealed on his website that the official Holy See Press Office bulletin, distributed to journalists shortly after 11 a.m. on Sunday, had reported the pontiff's concern for the Hong Kong crisis.
"In recent times, I have followed the development of the complex situation in Hong Kong with particular attention and not without concern, and I would like first of all to express my cordial closeness to all the inhabitants of that territory," Pope Francis was expected to say in his embargoed address.
The Holy Father would go on to say:
In the current context, the issues addressed are undoubtedly delicate and affect everyone's life; therefore, it is understandable that there is a marked sensitivity in this regard.
I therefore hope that all the people involved will be able to deal with the various problems in a spirit of far-sighted wisdom and authentic dialogue. This requires courage, humility, non-violence and respect for the dignity and rights of all.
I then express the vow that social life, and especially religious life, express themselves in full and true freedom, as, indeed, various international documents provide for it.
Francis would end his exhortation with words to his flock according to the text of the bulletin published by Tosatti:
"With my constant prayer, I accompany the whole Catholic community and all people of goodwill of Hong Kong, so that they can build together a prosperous and harmonious society."
Vatican correspondents are required to sign an undertaking that they will not violate Holy See embargoes.
In 2015, the Vatican suspended the press credentials of Sandro Magister, a longtime Vatican correspondent, for releasing an embargoed draft of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato Sí.
However, shortly before Francis appeared at the window in St. Peter's Square to pray the Angelus, journalists were told that the section of his remarks on Hong Kong were to be expunged.
No explanation has been given for the sudden expurgation of the Hong Kong comments. "But they were written, and they are known," the veteran correspondent stresses.
"What is not known, however, is what sort of pressure Beijing put on the pope so that he would not speak on world television about the drama of the former British colony, even in the most delicate and peaceful tones possible," Tosatti observes.
The author of Viganò vs. the Vatican speculates that the sudden pontifical blackout on Hong Kong could be due to "the famous secret agreement signed between Beijing and the Holy See, whose consequences are being heavily felt in the lives of many Chinese Catholics, despite the propaganda of the Vatican media."
"It is an agreement that risks constituting one of the most sensational errors in the history of Vatican diplomacy, and also one of the worst decisions of the pope who wanted it and endorsed it, unlike his predecessors," he laments.
Christopher Altieri, Catholic Herald's Rome bureau chief, confirmed the omission of the Hong Kong statement.
"Technically, embargoed texts don't exist until the pope pronounces them. So, how does one report on something that didn't happen? Pretending it was never going to happen was out of the question," Altieri writes.
"The issue is too momentous to treat it as just another of the audibles that have become almost run-of-the-mill during this pontificate," he comments.
Vatican observers have underscored the strange silence of the pontiff on Hong Kong. But as Church Militant has reported, experts are saying the Vatican is helping China to advance global Marxism in exchange for billions of dollars in annual payments.
Ex-cardinal and homopredator Theodore McCarrick has been called an architect of the secret agreement between China and the Vatican that Bp. Emeritus of Hong Kong Cdl. Joseph Zen has called a "total sellout" of Chinese Catholics. The Vatican has delayed for almost two years releasing a report detailing McCarrick's long history of sexual abuse.
In Nov. 2019, Francis sent a greeting to embattled Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor as he was flying from Thailand to Japan, wishing her peace without mentioning the political turmoil.
Hong Kong Catholics say Pope Francis has rejected their appeals to take a stance against Beijing's aggressive suppression of the protests.
When questioned directly about the crisis, Francis compared them to demonstrations over economic inequality in Chile, France and Spain, adding: "I would like to go to Beijing; I love China."
"The line followed by the Vatican in recent years, when dealing with the threatening China giant, has been appeasement at any cost," complained Cdl. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, writing in The Washington Post a month later.
Even Crux, an appendage of the liberal establishment media, pointed out that Hong Kong was "conspicuous by absence from list of pope's Christmas concerns."
"The questions journalists have now are: 'What made Pope Francis not say the thing?' and 'What does this tell us about both the Vatican's China policy and who has the pope's ear in these and other regards?'" Altieri asks.
"The unanswered question remains: What levers does Beijing have to operate the pope's gag?" echoes Tosatti.