HONG KONG, November 12, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― Cardinal Joseph Zen has written a letter to Pope Francis detailing the sufferings of Catholics in China since the Vatican signed a deal with the communist government.
Cardinal Zen revealed that he flew to Rome at the end of October to deliver a seven-page letter to Pope Francis begging him to pay attention of the crisis engulfing the underground Catholic Church in China.
Zen, 86, wants to talk to the Pope again, but he told an Asian Catholic media website that “this may be the last time.”
On November 8, the Shanghai-born Cardinal told the Union of Catholic Asian News (ucanews.com) that “underground clerics have cried to him” since the Vatican signed a deal with China on the appointment of bishops.
“They said officials have forced them to become open, to join the (schismatic) Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and to obtain a priest's certificate with the reason that the pope has signed the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement,” Cardinal Zen told the media group.
Because the agreement is not public, the legitimate Catholic clergy do not know what the Holy Father wants them to do.
“Some priests have escaped, and some have disappeared because they do not know what to do and are annoyed. The agreement is undisclosed, and they do not know if what officials say is true or not,” Zen said.
Some of the clerics’ hardships enumerated in Zen’s letter are confiscated money, clerics’ relations being harassed by civil authorities, imprisonment, and even execution.
“But the Holy See does not support them and regards them as trouble, referring to them causing trouble and not supporting unity. This is what makes them most painful,” said the Cardinal.
Zen also described his surprise that Pope Francis has said Chinese Catholics should be “prophets and sometimes criticize the government.”
“I feel very surprised that he does not understand the situation of the Chinese Church,” he said.
“He is very experienced. He also sees China’s ugly face and knows they are not reasonable,” Zen said. “In fact, he does not trust the Chinese side. He only uses them to achieve the purpose of establishing diplomatic relations.”
In addition to the current pontiff’s failure to grasp the gravity of the fate of Catholics in China, there has been a misinterpretation of letters Pope Benedict wrote about the Church in China during his own pontificate. Some believe Benedict called the underground church “abnormal,” but Zen insists this is not the case.
“Pope Benedict XVI was not talking about the abnormality of the underground church itself, but the situation in China is not normal. The government's intervention means that the Church cannot be pure and leads to abnormality, so the bishops, priests and faithful are going to the underground.”
Government interference in the Church means that in order to keep the faith whole and entire, the Church must remain underground. However, part of that faith is the recognition of a reigning pontiff as the Vicar of Christ.
“Our bottom line is the pope,” Zen told ucanews.com. “We cannot attack him. If the pope is wrong this time, I hope he will admit the mistake; if he does not admit, I hope that the future pope will point out the mistake. But in the end, it is still the pope's final decision. If you don't follow, then there is no principle, so the mainland's brothers must not rebel.”
Two of the signatories of a recent British letter in support of the underground Church told LifeSiteNews of their personal concern for Chinese Catholics.
Catholic apologist Peter D. Williams said via email that the signatories hoped to “raise awareness of the dangers” of the Vatican treaty with the Chinese government and “register lay opposition to (it) in the public square.”
“Silence implies consent, and therefore vocal (but rational and charitable) criticism is a necessity when the institutional Church engages in such actions.”
Kathy Sinnott, the organizer of Ireland’s pro-life “Rosary on the Coasts,” says she has been “deeply concerned” for many years about the persecution of Catholics in China faithful to Rome. In 2005, she visited China as a Member of European Parliament and voiced her concerns.
“I visited China as an MEP attending the WTO (World Trade Organization) Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong and had the privilege of attending daily Mass in an old Portuguese Church in Guangzhou,” Sinnott informed LifeSiteNews via email.
“The priest told me that although they had reasonable freedom there (a western enclave), it was very different in many parts of the country where persecution was a reality,” she continued.
Sinnott brought up the issues with Chinese officials but was not reassured.
“They never answered and never let their smile droop but would just say ‘China has a harmonious plan,’” she recalled.
The former MEP believes that the Vatican agreement has further endangered faithful underground Catholics.
“In making the agreement with the Chinese government, (the Vatican has) not just betrayed the faithful Chinese Catholics but … put them in even more danger,” she said.
“At this stage, I can only continue to pray for the members of Mystical Body of Christ in China.”