In his letter, Benedict said the PA was "incompatible with Catholic doctrine," since in their assemblies, held every few years, both legitimate and illegitimate bishops were treated equally by the PA, particularly regarding the sacraments.
For this reason, Chinese bishops recognized by the Holy See entered a clandestine state, thus giving life to the so called "underground Church" that is not recognized by the government.
But despite the hiccups that still exist, the Vatican has been working diligently to come to an agreement with the Chinese government, particularly regarding the appointment of bishops.
Talks with China are currently centered on bishop appointments, but as of now haven't touched the possibility of establishing diplomatic ties.
The deal currently on the table would essentially allow the government to pick a list candidates for the episcopacy and propose them the names to the Pope for approval or denial.
For Cardinal Zen, the danger of this that it leaves open the possibility that the Pope will either be forced to approve a "bad bishop," or his denial could be vetoed by the Chinese government.
Whereas currently the Vatican sends a list of potential candidates to China to approve or deny, in the new deal it would be the clergy who elect candidates, and the Pope giving the final word on people who may or may not be government stooges.
Cardinal Zen said that while accurate information on the deal is hard to find, at the moment "it seems to be stopped," which in his opinion is good news, because "the whole initiative starts from the government of China and the Holy Father has only the last word. But the last word may not be enough."
Right now in China "there is no freedom, so people cannot speak out, and those who speak out, it means they have too good of a relationship with the government," he said, adding that those vocally in favor "seem to hope in this agreement which may confirm their situation of privilege."
"So I try to tell the people that no deal is better than a bad deal," he said. "They should really consider the real good of the Church and not just to have an agreement at any cost."
His recent comments echoed those he made to CNA earlier this year.
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Cardinal Zen said he would "never criticize the Pope," and that what he wants above all is for "everybody to be rational."
"But I hope the people around the Pope stop giving him bad advice, because the Pope really needs to know the reality, and the reality is that there is no freedom, the reality is that we cannot see any goodwill on the part of Beijing government," he said. "They are still controlling the Church and they want to control it even more."