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Cardinal Joseph ZenClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

VATICAN, March 2, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen voiced more criticism about the forthcoming Vatican deal with China’s Communist government on the appointment of bishops, terming it “suicide” and an act of “shameless surrender.”

According to the Cardinal, the problem is not so much with Pope Francis, but with his papal advisors.

Pope Francis is “optimistic and full of love, and is eager to visit China,” Zen said, but his advisors are “obsessed” with an “Ostpolitik” answer to the problem of bishop appointments in China. 

They want “compromise without limits,” the Cardinal said, “they are already willing to completely surrender.”

The Pope, Zen said, “has never had direct knowledge of the Chinese Communist Party and, moreover, is poorly informed by the people around him.”

China’s first Cardinal also said he had the duty to speak “with a loud voice according to his conscience” until such time as what he terms “a bad agreement” is reached.

Cardinal Zen's criticism was first published February 24 in Chinese on his blog, and was then translated and published in Italian on veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister’s blog and covered by Catholic News Agency.

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An obsession with détente 

Zen pointed in particular to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin in his latest critique of the potential Vatican-China agreement.

Parolin, he said was in the “diplomatic school” of his predecessor Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, who was Vatican Secretary of State from 1979-1990.

Casaroli was “obsessed with Ostpolitik” and had called it “a sort of political compromise,” Zen said.

The late Cardinal Ivan Dias had also been influenced by Casaroli, he said. Dias was the former Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees Church administration in areas of the world determined to be ‘mission territories.’  

Zen said Dias, who passed away last June, had a “marvelous curriculum,” having been Archbishop of Bombay for close to a decade, and he was familiar with the overall circumstances in Asia.

But the issue with both Dias and Parolin, according to Zen, was that they “were perfectly in tune with the application of Ostpolitik in China, and (played) a double game against the instructions of Benedict XVI.”

Ostpolitik, German for “Eastern Policy,” refers to the political process of West Germany normalizing relations between East Germany and other Soviet-bloc countries in the late 1960s. In particular, it denotes repairing division between the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG, or West Germany), and the German Democratic Republic (GDR) of East Germany, which had split after World War II in 1945.

The term has also been used since that time in describing Pope Paul VI’s efforts to engage with Eastern European nations controlled by communist regimes.

Parolin, said Zen, is kind and “gifted with an extraordinary diplomatic art,” but even so, Parolin continues, “to be obsessed with Ostpolitik “… and “willingly offers his collaboration, giving the desired information and sparing the worrying parts.”

According to Zen, those who support the deal with China want “compromise without limits, they are already willing to completely surrender.”

The Pope doesn’t know the specifics

Zen said it's clear that the Pope “didn't know the details” of the anticipated deal. 

“If he signs any deal they want, we can only accept it, without protest,” said Zen. “But before the eventual signing, it is our right to make the truth about things known, because this can change the direction and avoid serious dangers for the Church.”

The 86- year-old Shanghai-born Zen is the former Archbishop of Hong Kong and had been an adviser to Pope Benedict XVI on China-Vatican relations. 

Zen had met privately with Francis in January to discuss the reported Holy See request for legitimate bishops in China to resign to be replaced by illegitimate Communist government-sanctioned bishops. He asked for prayers for the Pope in the wake of that meeting for the Pope’s dealing with the matter. 

Zen would later discuss the issue and his meeting with Francis in a January 29 blog post titled, “Dear Friends in the Media.”

“Do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?” the Cardinal asked in the letter. “Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.”

A consistent critical voice

Zen has maintained a steady critical voice of the potential Vatican deal with Communist China on episcopal appointments, and his February 24 blog wasn’t the first time he was critical of Cardinal Parolin.

In a February 5 statement, Zen admonished Parolin for the Secretary of State’s comments in an interview with La Stampa saying that the Church knows the sufferings of the Chinese people. Zen said Parolin’s interview was “filled with erroneous opinions,” and charged Parolin with manipulating Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 Letter to Chinese Catholics.

“Does this man of little faith know what true suffering is?” Cardinal Zen asked in his statement.

“The brothers and sisters of mainland China are not afraid of being reduced to poverty, of being put into prison, of shedding their blood. Their greatest suffering is to see themselves betrayed by ‘family,’” he said.

Cardinal Zen also commented critically on the Parolin interview in a February 13 blog post, saying that, “a schismatic church with the Pope’s blessing will be horrible!”

Last July he’d commented in an interview on reports that a consensus on the appointment of bishops had been reached between the Vatican and China that the Holy See was “adopting a wrong strategy.”

“On the surface, it seems that “the authority of the Pope is safe because they say the Pope has the last word,” he said.  “But the whole thing is fake. They are giving decisive power to the government … how can the initiative of choosing bishops be given to an atheistic government? Incredible. Incredible.”

In February of last year, Zen told LifeSiteNews he was worried because it seemed that “the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China.” Zen said he could understand that the pope was really naïve and didn’t know the Chinese Communists, saying that his advisors have “very wrong ideas” and “may sell out our underground Church.”

The Chinese government wants “total surrender” from the Church, Zen said, even though such a deal might look as though it gives the Pope some power.

He’d criticized the specter of a deal allowing the Chinese government to select bishops back in a November 2016 interview as well, and also warned of its dangers in a blog post early that year.

The Father giving his Son to redeem mankind was unjust?

Zen’s current blog post considers a conversation Zen had with Father Geng Zhanhe, a priest from continental China, and responds to points Geng had apparently made in favor of the Vatican agreement with the Chinese government.

Zen wrote that Father Geng had commented that while it might seem wrong to ask legitimate bishops to step down in favor of those who are illegitimate – which the Vatican has done in at least two cases – it was also unjust for God the Father to ask his only Son to die on the cross.

“It's true that the Father sacrificed the Son,” Zen said, “but it was man who crucified him.” He then pointed to the Scripture verse when Christ told Pilate “those who handed me over have the greater sin.”

“All those who made him die sinned,” Zen said. “Certainly Christ could forgive them, but they didn't become apostles.”

Zen continued regarding the Chinese priest and his acquiescence on the deal, “Don Geng does not know how to distinguish between abject sale and suffering oppression, voluntary suicide and the wound suffered, shameless surrender and unhappy failure. How sad!”

An imminent deal between the Church and Communist China?

The rumored agreement remains in the news, with sources saying the deal is “imminent” and expected as early as this spring, CNA reports.

If the deal goes through, it’s anticipated the Holy See would officially recognize seven bishops who are out of communion with Rome, which would include 2-3 whose excommunications were explicitly declared by the Vatican.

The deal’s specifics would reportedly mirror the Vatican's agreement with Vietnam, according to CNA, where the Holy See would propose three candidates’ names, and the Chinese government would choose the one to be named a bishop.

The “democratic election” of new bishops in China by the “illegitimate episcopal conference” would equate to the government selecting bishops, Zen said, so the “final word” of the Pope “cannot save his function; the formality of maintaining pontifical authority will hide the fact that the real authority to name bishops will be placed in the hands of an atheist government.”
Bishops currently recognized by Beijing must be members of the patriotic association. Many of those appointed by the Vatican who are not recognized by China’s government have suffered government persecution.

Zen was also critical in his blog post of the fact that as one of two Chinese cardinals, he’d not been made privy to the rumored agreement’s contents.

“Certainly they can't make public all the contents of the negotiation,” he said, but as one of China’s two cardinals, “would I not have the right to know the contents?”

And even if specifics of the deal were known openly, Zen asked, “should we just wait and hold hands and make critiques only once it's been accomplished?”

If the pope were to sign the agreement tomorrow, Zen said he “could not criticize it,” even if he doesn't understand the decision. 

However, until that time, he said, “I have the duty to speak with a loud voice according to my conscience, I have the right to reiterate that this is a bad agreement!”