Featured Image
Cardinal Joseph ZenClaire Chretien / LifeSiteNews

BEIJING, December 6, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) — Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen said that Pope Francis is “encouraging a schism” in China by “legitimizing” the Communist-run Chinese catholic independent church. 

“Recently I learned that the Holy Father, on a flight back from (I don’t remember where) said, ‘Sure, I don’t want to see a schism. But I’m not afraid of a schism.’ And I’m going to tell him ‘you are encouraging a schism. You are legitimizing the schismatic church in China.’ Incredible,” said Cardinal Zen in a candid interview with online New Bloom Magazine published Dec. 3.

Zen related in the interview how attempts to contact and work with the Vatican under Pope Francis for the good of Chinese Catholics has been “simply disastrous” when compared to the open and welcoming situation under previous popes. He accused Francis of “shutting down” the good work regarding China accomplished by John Paul II and by Pope Benedict.

“But what is happening now? Francis came. Now I’m sorry to say that I think you can agree that he has low respect for his predecessors. He is shutting down everything done by John Paul II and by Pope Benedict. And obviously they always give lip service, they always say ‘In the continuity…’ but that’s [slaps table] an insult. An insult. Not in the continuity,” the Cardinal said. 

News came in September 2018 that Vatican and Chinese officials inked a provisional agreement aimed at unifying the underground Church and the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). The agreement remains secret. However, it apparently allows the CPCA to choose episcopal nominees for bishop, from which the Pope may then select his choice. It also requires priests and bishops of the underground Church to register with the government, thus affirming its authority over the Church.

Auxiliary Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin is in hiding after refusing to register with the government, after escaping from state security scrutiny. Clerics who remain loyal to the papacy, Zen said, are in danger of harassment and persecution while the government mounts pressure to adhere to the CPCA. 

When asked about his personal relationship with Pope Francis, Zen said he had a “wonderful relation,” noting that the Pope had invited him to supper in July of this year. He immediately added, however, that the Pope “doesn’t answer my letters. And everything that happened [regarding Vatican/China deal] is against what I suggested.”

Cardinal Zen pointed out three effects of Pope Francis not following his advice.

“There are three things. A secret agreement [between the Vatican and China], being so secret you can’t say anything. We don’t know what is in it. Then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops. That’s incredible, simply incredible. But even more incredible is the last act: the killing of the underground.”

Zen had harsh words against Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin whom he accused of “manipulating” Pope Francis to go along with the secret deal. 

“It’s a real mystery how a man of the Church , given all his knowledge of China, of the Communists, could do such a thing as he’s doing now? The only explanation is not faith. It’s a diplomatic success. Vainglory,” Zen said of Parolin. 

Zen said that the July 2019 “Pastoral Guidelines” from the Holy See that allow clergy to register with the Chinese government are “terrible.” 

“Now this last act is simply incredible. The document says, ‘To minister openly, you need to register with the government.’ And then you have to sign. To sign something in which it says that you have to support the independent church. That’s not good, actually we are still discussing on that problem. And so the government is not good because they are anticipating. But anyway, ‘You sign,’” he said. 

“The document contains something against our orthodoxy and they are encouraged to sign. You cannot cheat yourself. You cannot cheat the Communists. You are cheating the whole world. You are cheating the faithful. To sign the document is not to sign a declaration. When you sign, you accept to be a member of that church under the leadership of the communist party. So terrible, terrible,” he added. 

It was at this point that the Cardinal accused the Pope of “encouraging a schism” in China. 

Some of the Communist-approved bishops have indicated that their first priority is to serve China, then the Church. 

Communist-approved bishop John Fang Xingyao, who presides over the CPCA, recently said that love of country should supersede love of the Catholic Church.

“Love for the homeland must be greater than the love for the Church and the law of the country is above Canon law,” Bishop Fang told the Political Consultative Conference on Religions on November 26 in Beijing. 

Using a similar line of reasoning, Bishop Peter Fang Jianping of Tangshan said last year that Catholics should support President Xi’s proposed sinicization of religion “because we, as citizens of the country, should first be a citizen and then have religion and beliefs.”