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

November 27, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – In a recent interview with the French website La Croix International, Cardinal Joseph Zen has renewed his resistance against the 22 September 2018 “provisional” agreement between the Vatican and Communist China on the appointment of bishops, whose full content, however, is still largely unknown. But it will readmit “to full ecclesial communion the remaining ‘official’ Bishops, ordained without Pontifical Mandate.” The agreement is now being used to coerce the Underground Catholics to join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association under Communist rule, as the Cardinal explains. He recently hand-delivered to the Pope a seven-page-letter, not trusting the reliability of the Pope's entourage.

In the 22 November interview, Cardinal Zen makes it clear that he considers the 22 September agreement to be destructive of the faithful Underground Church in China. He says that “the Pope didn’t get anything from this agreement, it’s a 'fake,' an illusion, and Beijing made him lose his authority.” The “Chinese authorities still consider they are in charge of the Chinese Church and they will still choose the bishops. The Pope will only have the last word,” Zen explains. 

Zen particularly points out that the agreement is of a secret nature and thus it can be manipulated by the Chinese Communists: “As this agreement is secret, the Chinese think that all the process now is legalized and they can choose the bishops. They think the Holy See signed a white paper (blank check) and that they can do what they want.” As a consequence of this agreement between Rome and China, the Communists will now approach all the faithful Catholics in China to tell them now that they have “to come out and leave clandestinity to join the Catholic Patriotic Association from the official Church. 'Come out, come out, the Pope [has made it] ok,' they will tell them,” the Cardinal states.

Pope Francis is now in the course of removing the excommunication of the bishops of the Patriotic Association which is under Communist control, thus further promoting a certain development in China that weakens the faithful Catholics. Zen explains the situation to be as follows: “Certainly, it’s only the beginning but we can clearly see where it is going. The Pope suspended the excommunication for seven bishops and gave jurisdiction of one diocese to Bishop Guo in Chengde. The Pope is going to wait before legitimizing the other six. It’s only a matter of time.” 

With this papal support and leniency toward the Communist-linked bishops, Cardinal Zen adds, “indirectly, the Vatican is helping the government to annihilate the underground Church that Beijing was not able to crush.”

Zen also asks whether one can speak of unity when “they force the underground to enter the bird cage?”

Zen describes how the good bishops in China are now even more marginalized since the Vatican agreement, but that they continue to fight. “Now the regime is destroying the underground Church and disappointing the few good bishops in the official Church. They resist. They do what they can, but they are marginalized.”

Cardinal Zen also announces that, should Pope Francis also legitimatize the remaining six bishops of the Patriotic Association, he shall fall into silence and go into a monastery: “I can’t fight against the pope. But when he legitimizes the six bishops, I will retire to a convent to pray. And I will not talk to journalists anymore. I will remain silent.”

Only a short while ago, Cardinal Zen personally gave Pope Francis his seven-page letter, saying “I wanted to be sure he gets my seven-page letter because I don't trust the people around him.” Speaking about the content of his letter, Zen says “I asked him to stop the negotiations with Beijing,” adding “the pope doesn't know the situation of the Church in China.” He also cautions the Pope not to visit China, because he would only be “manipulated by the regime whereas it would be good for President Xi Jinping for his international credibility.” 

Cardinal Zen had for years warned against such a Vatican agreement with China. In 2016, when speaking with the German bishops' website, he warned against a possible agreement with China, saying “First, we should agree upon the question 'what is a Communist regime.' It is a totalitarian regime which wants to control everything. Also the Church. But this we may not allow – the Church may not be controlled by a government, by a regime.” 

He then made it clear that the recent years of the Vatican trying to make compromises with Communist China have only weakened the Church: “All these years of compromise have weakened the position of the Church. The Church [, on the contrary,] should encourage the faithful to be strong, to practice resistance.” 

Already in 2016, Cardinal Zen announced that he will fall silent, should there be an agreement with China. “If Francis comes to an agreement with Beijing, I will stop speaking. I will disappear. […] I will read my books and I will never appear publicly again. That is what I have also said to my brethren: retreat quietly and wait until better times come.” 

It is to be hoped that Cardinal Zen will change his mind and continue to speak in public for his suppressed people and to remain a prophet for his people, or in his words “I am someone crying in the desert.”