Hong Kong, China, Oct 25, 2018 / 23:00 pm
The recent agreement between the Vatican and China is a step towards the “annihilation” of the Catholic Church in China, Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, wrote in a New York Times op-ed published on Wednesday.
Zen, who has been openly critical of Vatican’s approach towards China in the past, did not hold back in his assessment of Pope Francis’ new deal and in offering his views on communist governments.
A Sept. 22 agreement between the Holy See and Beijing was intended to normalize the situation of China’s Catholics. The Church in China has been split between the “underground” Church, in full communion with Rome, and the state-run Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which was not. The Chinese government appointed bishops of the CPCA.
The September agreement was designed to unify those groups, by approving a formula through which Pope Francis would approve bishops nominated by Beijing.
But Zen’s op-ed said the distinction between the underground Church and the CCPA has not been eradicated.
He said those who attend the “underground” Church worship in secret and are subject to persecution from the government if they are discovered. Amid a religious crackdown in China, Zen said that priests of the underground church have been encouraging their parishioners to skip Mass for their own safety.
While Pope Francis is “very pastoral,” Zen said does not think that he properly understands how Communist China works. In Pope Francis’ home country of Argentina, the Communists worked to defend the poor against government oppression, often alongside Jesuits, he said. This could be why the pope “may have a natural sympathy for Communists,” as he views them to be persecuted.
It is far different, said Zen, in places where Communists are the ruling party--like China. When they acquire power, the Communists become the persecutors themselves, he said.
After Zen returned to China from studies in Rome in 1974, he said it had become a “whole nation under slavery,” and cautioned about society forgetting how oppressive the regime was at that time. And while he concedes that the Chinese government has made significant strides in embracing human rights, “you can never have a truly good agreement with a totalitarian regime.”