The former Bishop of Hong Kong accused the Vatican of “selling out” the church in China after holding a private audience with Pope Francis.
Cardinal Joseph Zen asserted that the Vatican was betraying the Chinese church and strengthening the communist party’s control over it by requesting that two bishops of China’s underground church step down and be replaced by Chinese government approved bishops, according to Catholic Herald. Zen published an open letter to Facebook, saying that while Francis’ response to the situation during their private audience on Jan. 12 comforted him, he still believed that the Vatican was “selling out” the Chinese church.
“Do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months,” Zen wrote.
Zen also confirmed a recent report from AsiaNews about the replacement of the bishops with government approved clerics was accurate, as he was the source who supplied the information for the report. A Vatican delegation requested that Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian resign and Bishop Joseph Guo Xijin accept a demotion to coadjutor bishop, the report states.
The request is part of ongoing negotiations between the Holy See and the Chinese government, both of which have vied for decades over who has authority to appoint bishops to the church in China. With the removal of Jianjian and Xijin, the Holy See would then recognize the government appointed bishop Huang Bingzhang, who the Vatican excommunicated, and bishop Vincent Zhan Silu as bishops over their respective dioceses. The Vatican has discussed recognizing a total of seven government-appointed bishops, in exchange for which the Chinese government would then recognize about 20 bishops openly appointed by the Vatican and 40 bishops appointed in the underground church.
Zen, however, believes that such a move would “be giving the blessing on the new strengthened schismatic Church,” according to Crux Now. He said the Francis agreed with that appraisal of the situation and that the pontiff said he admonished Vatican officials about it, saying: “Yes, I told them not to create another Mindszenty case!”
Cardinal József Mindszenty served as Archbishop of Budapest during the reign of Hungary’s communist regime. The Holy See caved to pressure from Hungary’s communist government and requested that Mindszenty leave the country so that he could be replaced by a government approved archbishop.
Zen also explained in his open letter that the danger did not lie just in the resignation and demotion of the aforementioned bishops, but with the entire concept of the Chinese government choosing replacements for them and potentially for others. Zen wrote that there are many older bishops within the underground church in China who have repeatedly requested a Vatican appointed successor and received no answer.
The Vatican has prevented successors who have been appointed and even have official confirmation from Francis from going forward with their ordination so as to appease China’s government, he claims.
The Chinese government’s replacement of bishops is another facet of Chinese president Xi Jinping’s “Sinicization of religion,” which is Jinping’s policy to ostensibly make all religion in China adhere to Chinese cultural standards. The Sinicization of religion is, in reality, a demand for all religions to eschew all principles that contradict the authority of the state and to obey the Communist party.
“I acknowledge myself as a pessimist regarding the present situation of the Church in China, but my pessimism has a foundation in my long direct experience of the Church in China,” Zen wrote in his open letter.
“Am I the major obstacle in the process of reaching a deal between the Vatican and China? If that is a bad deal, I would be more than happy to be the obstacle,” Zen added.
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