Recently the seven illicit bishops sent a letter to the Vatican seeking restoration to full communion, but this should not necessarily be believed, Cardinal Zen told EWTN.
"All those bishops are in the hands of the government. How can you believe in their real repentance? " he asked. While the Church is always ready to forgive and to absolve their excommunication, there are other problems.
"How can you recognize them to be bishops? To be shepherds of the flock? To form the people to obey, to respect, these people, how can you do that?" the cardinal asked.
Such a move would make it appear these bishops were forgiven because of government pressure, not because the Holy See believes in their sincere repentance.
"I think what is going to happen is a tragedy, a real tragedy," he said, deeming the proposed agreement a "betrayal of the faith."
About 60 Chinese bishops are recognized by both the Vatican and the Chinese government, while another 30 bishops are recognized only by the Catholic Church.
Pope Benedict XVI recognized many bishops ordained for the government-run church as "opportunists," Zen said, saying this is true even of many ordained with Vatican approval.
"They know that they have to rely on the government to make a career," he said.
Arroyo summarized details of the proposed appointment of bishops, in which the Chinese government proposes three bishops' candidates for the Vatican's approval. However, this is the reverse of such arrangements. Usually, the Vatican proposes three candidates from which the government may choose one.
"They say the authority of the Pope is safe because the last word still belongs to the Pope. The problem is what can be the last word?" Cardinal Zen asked.
In the absence of an agreement, the government feels pressure to compromise and pay attention to the choices of the Vatican.
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"But when you give them the power in their hands, they use it fully," the cardinal said. He questioned whether provisions for a papal veto of the government's choice would be effective.
The Pope does not need the Chinese government to acknowledge him officially as the head of the Church, the cardinal suggested.
"They recognize the Pope! They are afraid of the Pope! But now the advisors of the Pope are giving him advice to renounce this authority," he said.
The cardinal insisted that the Holy See has never asked a legitimate bishop to resign his position to make way for an excommunicated bishop.
Against his detractors, who have said the cardinal has little experience of contemporary China, Cardinal Zen cited his seven years' experience teaching in China's official Church seminaries from 1989-1996.
"From my direct, immediate experience, I know that the Church is completely enslaved to the government," he said, stating that he is still kept updated on the situation by discreet visitors.