Hong Kong, China, Feb 6, 2018 / 16:40 pm
A possible Vatican agreement with the Chinese government has prompted feelings of unease and fears of betrayal, Cardinal Joseph Zen has warned in a strong statement continuing his criticism of negotiations.
“In recent days, the brothers and sisters living on the Chinese mainland have learned that the Vatican is ready to surrender to the Chinese communist party, and therefore they feel uneasy,” Cardinal Zen wrote in a Feb. 5 Chinese-language blog post translated and posted to Settimo Cielo, the site of Vatican reporter Sandro Magister at the Italian newspaper L’Espresso.
“Seeing that the illegitimate and excommunicated bishops will be legitimized, and the legitimate ones will be forced to retire, it is logical that the legitimate and clandestine bishops should be concerned about their fate,” continued the cardinal, the archbishop emeritus of Hong Kong.
“How many nights of suffering will the priests and laity endure, to think that they will have to bow down to and obey those bishops who are now illegitimate and excommunicated, but tomorrow will be legitimized by the Holy See, supported by the government?” Zen asked.
The 86-year-old cardinal’s words are among the latest developments amid continued reports that the Holy See is nearing a deal to regularize relations with the officially communist Chinese government.
The deal could involve some bishops loyal to the Holy See retiring or accepting a lower position, to make way for bishops illicitly ordained—although one elderly bishop is apparently refusing a request that he retire. The new deal would also apparently outline government and Vatican roles in the selection of future bishops. Reportedly, the deal would have the Vatican propose bishops and the Chinese government having the final say over these Vatican-vetted candidates.
The Church in China is complicated by the relationship between the government-supported Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association and the underground Church, which includes priests and bishops who are not recognized by the government.
Every bishop recognized by Beijing must be a member of the patriotic association. Many bishops appointed by the Vatican are not recognized or approved by the Chinese government, and many have faced government persecution. At the same time, not all bishops appointed by the Chinese government have been approved by the Vatican, and thus their ordinations were in violation of church law.