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While North Korea may be opening its borders to Catholic priests, one illustrious prelate in Hong Kong is warning the Vatican must be careful in making deals with communist China that may spell suicide for Chinese Catholics.
Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, is saying that Rome's desire for dialogue with China may result in an "act of suicide" for the underground Catholics and a "shameless surrender" of their Catholic faith to the Communist-run Patriotic Church. In a March interview Cdl. Zen warned, "The Holy See is always encouraging the people in the underground ... to surrender, to compromise. So they are weakening our Church. It is a kind of suicide."
The cardinal continues speaking about reports of a deal in January in which the Vatican asked two Catholic bishops in China to resign their positions so that new bishops of the Communist-controlled Patriotic Association could take over. In an open letter to the public, Cdl. Zen writes that the problem "is not the resignation of the legitimate Bishops, but the request to make a place for the illegitimate and even excommunicated ones."
The Vatican in 1988 forbid Roman Catholics in the underground Church from participating in the sacraments of the Patriotic Church, since the association "had broken all relationships with the pope" and would be "under the direct control of the government."
In 2007 Pope Benedict XVI declared the position of this "official" communist-backed Church which seeks to appoint bishops is "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."
[It] is clear that the claim of some entities, desired by the State and extraneous to the structure of the Church, to place themselves above the Bishops and to guide the life of the ecclesial community, does not correspond to Catholic doctrine ... . [T]o implement "the principles of independence and autonomy, self-management and democratic administration of the Church" is incompatible with Catholic doctrine.
Watch the panel discuss evangelizing the Orient in The Download—To the East.