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Cdl. Joseph Zen in Hong Kong, China, Aug. 18, 2018.Paul Yeung/Bloomberg via Getty Images

VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews) — The emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has firmly criticized Pope Francis’ restrictions on the traditional Mass as well as the Pope’s Synod on Synodality.

Cardinal Zen made his forthright comments to Italian news outlet Il Giornale, in an interview published January 17.

READ: Pope Francis finally meets with persecuted Cdl. Zen. Why now?

Zen was present in Rome for the first time since 2020, after he was given 5 days leave by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to travel across for Pope Benedict’s funeral.

Asked about Archbishop Georg Gänswein’s revelatory book, Zen replied that he had not read it, but that he agreed with excerpts which have been widely reported.

Why ‘humiliate’ Pope Benedict?

“I agree with Monsignor Gänswein on the issue of the Latin Mass,” he said. “The tendentious generalizations in Francis’ Traditionis custodes have hurt the hearts of many people.”

Echoing comments he made shortly after Traditionis custodes was released in 2021, Zen added that contained in the document, and the Pope’s accompanying letter, there was “an ‘ease’ and ‘tendentiousness’ in linking the desire to use the extraordinary form of the Mass with a negative judgment on the ordinary form of the Mass, or a tendency to link the refusal to accept the liturgical reform with a total and profound rejection of the Second Vatican Council.” 

“Can’t the Vatican’s anti-Ratzingers wait patiently for the Tridentine Mass to die along with the death of Benedict XVI, instead of humiliating him in this way?” he asked.

In his book, Gänswein had written that Benedict only learned about Traditionis custodes by reading L’Osservatore Romano on the day the document was released. According to Gänswein, Benedict considered the publication of Traditionis custodes a “mistake.” 

In a separate interview, Gänswein stated that the late Pontiff read Traditionis custodes “with pain in his heart.”

Zen has previously written of his positive impressions of the effect the traditional Mass has had upon the Church.

READ: Cdl. Zen on Pope’s Latin Mass restrictions: They ‘hurt the hearts of many good people’

Some weeks before Traditionis custodes appeared, he wrote about “the very good that came from the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum and from the celebration of the Tridentine Mass.”

“I felt such reverence, I was so fascinated (and still am!) by the beauty of Gregorian chant, that I think that experience has nourished my vocation to the priesthood, as for so many others,” he wrote. “The Tridentine Mass is not divisive; on the contrary, it unites us to our brothers and sisters of all ages, to the saints and martyrs of every time, to those who have fought for their faith and who have found in it inexhaustible spiritual nourishment.”

Synod a cause for concern

The cardinal also waded into the controversy over Pope Francis’ multi-year Synod on Synodality, the next major event of which is the Synod of Bishops this October.

“I hope there will be a change,” said Zen in response to whether Pope Francis would change. However, he continued:

We are very concerned about what might happen with the Synod of Bishops. And I fear that the Synod will repeat the same mistake as the Dutch Church 50 years ago, when the bishops backed down and accepted that the faithful led the Church; then their numbers decreased.

“Let us pray that our Pope will have more wisdom,” said Zen. 

The 91-year-old prelate added that Benedict had “offered a very good example” about resigning, that if Francis has “has serious health problems he should consider resigning.”

It is unclear whether Zen’s interview was conducted via email, or in person. Many of his remarks on the traditional Mass echo almost word for word his 2021 comments, implying at least that his public opinions have not changed. 

While in Rome for Benedict’s funeral, Cardinal Zen finally met with Pope Francis, after the Pontiff famously refused to meet the cardinal on his last visit to Rome in 2020. Dissident, Jesuit-run America Magazine broke news of the meeting, and reported that Pope Francis had received Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen in a “private audience” on January 6, the day after Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral.

The report added that Zen told America the meeting he had with Francis “was wonderful. He was so very warm!”

It is unknown whether the pair discussed the Vatican’s secret deal with China — a deal which Zen has consistently and publicly opposed. He has accused Francis of “encouraging a schism” and of “selling out the Catholic Church in China,” while also characterizing the deal as “an incredible betrayal.”

Speaking to Il Giornale about the meeting, Zen replied that the meeting was “very warm” — as America had done. However, asked later about the plight of Chinese Catholics, Zen replied: “It is a difficult situation; we must never forget to pray in these hard times. Many faithful witness their faith conscientiously but we know that when the situation becomes difficult, some think only of their own interest. Let us continue to stand for truth, justice and charity. Darkness will not win over light.”