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Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.EWTN World Over

ROME, February 6, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) — Cardinal Joseph Zen has criticized the Vatican’s Secretary of State over comments about the Holy See’s relations with China. Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, says Cardinal Pietro Parolin is a “man of little faith” and he wonders if Parolin knows what “true suffering is.”

In a statement released on Monday, Cardinal Zen addressed the controversy over the Vatican legitimizing excommunicated bishops loyal to Beijing and the forcing of legitimate bishops of the underground Church into retirement.

Zen said that while several close associates have advised him to pray more and to speak less, he wants to “keep talking,” especially because he senses that “before long” he will no longer be able to speak.

“How many nights of suffering will the priests and laity endure, at the thought that they will have to bow down to and obey those bishops who are now illegitimate and excommunicated, but tomorrow will be legitimized by the Holy See, and supported by the government,” he said.

Responding to accusations regarding the appointment of bishops, Cardinal Parolin said in a Jan. 31 interview with La Stampa that the Church knows the sufferings endured by the Chinese people but is confident that once the question of episcopal appointments has been settled, the obstacles to Chinese Catholics living in communion with the Pope and among themselves should be greatly diminished.

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

“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.

The Cardinal of Hong Kong described Parolin’s interview as “filled with erroneous opinions,” and accused him of manipulating Pope Benedict XVI’s 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics.

One day earlier, on Jan. 30, 2018, Vatican spokesman Greg Burke issued an official statement concerning “widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action” between Pope Francis “and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China.”

The communique came the day after Cardinal Zen revealed in an open letter the contents of a conversation he had with Pope Francis. The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong said he expressed to the Holy Father his grave fears over the recent steps taken in China by Vatican representatives regarding the appointment of bishops. Burke’s statement read:

The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention. It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy.

In his statement on Monday, Cardinal Zen took issue with the Vatican spokesman, calling him a “caged bird” who should be comforted since he is “forced to carry out such an embarrassing role.”

Here below is a LifeSiteNews translation (from Italian) of Cardinal Zen’s full statement.



by Joseph Zen Zekiun

Several people who care about me have advised me to pray more and not to speak too much. Of course it is right to pray more, because the Lord is our hope and we have confidence in the intercession of Our Lady, the Mother of God.

They have probably advised me in this way out of the fear that if I speak too much, I will be more easily attacked. But I am not afraid of this, because my words are correct and helpful. At my age, I don’t care whether I gain or lose.

I want to keep talking because I have the impression that before long I will not be able to talk anymore. And so I ask your forgiveness.

1. In the reading at Mass this Sunday, Job has to endure the long night of suffering, in which he laments that he no longer sees happiness with his eyes. But Psalm 146 invites us to praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted. In recent days, brothers and sisters living on the Chinese mainland have learned that the Vatican is ready to surrender to the Chinese communist party, and so they are uneasy. Given that illegitimate and excommunicated bishops will be legitimized, while the legitimate ones will be forced to retire, it is logical that the legitimate and clandestine bishops should be concerned about their fate. How many nights of suffering will the priests and laity endure, at the thought that they will have to bow down to and obey those bishops who are now illegitimate and excommunicated, but tomorrow will be legitimized by the Holy See, and supported by the government. Especially as a disaster has already begun without having to wait for tomorrow. As of February 1, new government rules on religious activity have gone into effect. The clandestine priests of Shanghai have asked the faithful not to go to their Masses anymore, because those who persist in doing so will be arrested! But do not be afraid, because the Lord heals the brokenhearted.

2. The Holy See’s Secretary of State has said that “we know the sufferings endured yesterday and today by our Chinese brothers and sisters.” But does this man of little faith know what true suffering is? 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.” Parolin’s interview is filled with erroneous opinions. It is not decent for a high-ranking official of the Holy See to manipulate the letter [to Chinese Catholics] of a Pope, even if he is already retired, by citing the passage (4.7): “The solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities,” but concealing the fact that the letter immediately continues by saying that “at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church.”

During World Youth Day in Korea, the Pope told the Asian bishops that “the prerequisite of dialogue is coherence with one’s own identity.” Well informed persons in the upper ranks of the Holy See are now saying with regret that “we will be like a bird in a cage but the cage will be bigger; we are asking for as much space as possible.” But the real problem is not whether the cage is big or small, but who is in this cage. The clandestine believers are not in it. But now you want to force them into it as well, so that that they too may be “reconciled” with those who are already inside! Of course, there are people in the cage who are trapped there, but there also servile and domineering persons who are inside it quite willingly. (I was the first to say that there is only one Church in China and that all believers, both of the official Church and of the clandestine Church, love the pope; but now I no longer dare to say this).

Since I have decided to let truth and justice prevail (everything I say starts from the principle of preserving the pope’s reputation and setting the Church’s doctrine in clear light), I have no difficulty in saying that I reported my opinions on “dialogue” to Pope Francis when he received me in private audience three years ago. The pope listened to me attentively for forty minutes, without interrupting me. When I told him that, objectively speaking, the official Church of mainland China is schismatic (in that it has an autonomous administration independent of the Holy See and dependent on the government), the pope replied: “Of course!”

3. Yesterday not a few individuals came to see me or telephoned me to offer me some comfort, following the accusation made against me by the spokesman for the Vatican. But they have misunderstood, because I do not need to be comforted. It would have been better for them to have gone to comfort that spokesman. He is the one who is a caged bird forced to carry out such an embarrassing role: this time he was very efficient and immediately criticized by intervention (and of course he read what had been written by others). One may recall that more than a year ago, prior to the 9th Congress of Representatives of the Chinese Catholic Church, he was the one who said that “the Holy See is waiting to make a judgment based on proven facts.” One year later, they are still waiting to make judgments.

4. Also deserving of pity is the commentator from the “South China Morning Post” who every day finds someone to criticize and lampoon: he must be an expert who knows everything and could have his say on all the programs de omnibus et aliquibus aliis. This person has written that I love politics more than religion. I want to wake him up a bit: “Where angels fear to tread, the fools rush in.” Does he know what religion is, what faith is? He has said that I have decided to make the believers of mainland China suffer. But does he understand what the real suffering is for persons of faith? Nonetheless, the last thing he said was right: “The Vatican has to readjust its worldly diplomacy, whatever its spiritual preferences.” But they are not only preferences, they are non-negotiable principles!