Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Sep 21, 2020 / 12:30 pm
The former Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, has said that the Church’s efforts to negotiate an extension to the 2018 provisional agreement with China are harming the evangelization of that country.
In an interview with CNA, Cardinal Zen said that the Church’s silence on Communist human rights abuses, including the detention of more than 1 million Uyghurs in a network of concentration camps in Xinjiang Province, was damaging the ability of the Church to play a role in shaping the future of the country.
“The resounding silence will damage the work of evangelization,” the cardinal said. “Tomorrow when people will gather to plan the new China, the Catholic Church may not be welcome.”
While Cardinals Zen, Charles Muang Bo of Burma and Ignatius Suharyo of Indonesia have repeatedly denounced China’s human rights violations, the Vatican, including Pope Francis, have remained silent on what human rights groups have called a “genocide” and campaign of “ethnic cleansing” against the Uyghurs as diplomatic talks continue on the future of the Vatican-China agreement.
In recent weeks, both the Holy See and the Chinese government have signaled their intention to extend the 2018 deal, which was meant to unify the country’s 12 million Catholics, divided between the underground Church and the Communist-administered Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, and clear a path for the appointment of bishops for Chinese dioceses.
While Zen says there is a lack of visible progress on either Communist tolerance of underground Catholics or on the nomination of bishops, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican Secretary of State, said last week that negotiations continued to “normalize” the life of the Church in China.
“With China, our current interest is to normalize the life of the Church as much as possible, to ensure that the Church can live a normal life, which for the Catholic Church is also to have relations with the Holy See and with the Pope,” Parolin said Sept. 14.
Zhao Lijian, spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said at a press conference Sept. 10 that “With the concerted efforts from both sides, the interim agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican has been implemented successfully since it was signed around two years ago.”