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VATICAN CITY (LifeSiteNews)According to Vatican News, the Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, has said of Cardinal Joseph Zen’s recent arrest and release in Hong Kong by the national security police that the event should not be read as ‘a disavowal’ of the agreement between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China on the appointments of bishops.” 

The Secretary of State made the comments to reporters in Rome at an event held at the Pontifical Gregorian University conducted by the John Paul I Vatican Foundation. He said that he was “saddened” by the arrest, and expressed his “closeness to the cardinal, who was freed and treated well. However, he voiced his hope that “initiatives such as this one will not complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue between the Holy See and the Church in China.” 

In April, Parolin told CNA in an interview that he hoped to renew, with some modifications, the agreement between the Vatican and Beijing, which is set to expire in October. The precise text of theagreement, first signed in September 2018 and renewed in 2020, has never been revealed publicly. However, it is known that the agreement allows the Chinese government, run by the Communist Chinese Party (CCP), exclusively to propose to the Holy See the names of candidates for episcopal appointment in China. 

In September 2018, Zen called for Parolin to resign over the Vatican-Beijing deal, declaring it “an incredible betrayal” of the underground Catholic Church in China. “I don’t think he has faith,” Zen said of Parolin. “He is just a good diplomat in a very secular, mundane meaning. He should resign. It’s a complete surrender … I have no other words.” 

In October 2018, Cardinal Gerhard Müller told EWTN that he trusted Cardinal Zen’s assessment of how the Church should deal with the CCP and questioned whether a deal could be made with “communist atheists.”  

“I trust more in Cardinal Zen,” Müller said, “because he has all the experience with the Communists and with their lies and the persecution they have made. Surely the Pope has the office and the task to recall these schismatics to the full communion of the Church, but the question is, ‘What is the price for it?’ Can we make a deal, the Holy Church, the Body of Christ, with communist atheists?” 

RELATED: Bishop Schneider denounces ‘shameful’ arrest of Cardinal Zen, urges Pope to ‘make his voice strongly heard’

The Holy See’s present allowance of the Chinese government to propose names for episcopal consecration stands in direct violation of the Code of Canon Law, which stipulates, “The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those legitimately elected” (can. 377, §1). The Code expressly forbids any interference of civil authorities in the matter of episcopal appointment, declaring, “In the future, no rights and privileges of election, nomination, presentation, or designation of bishops are granted to civil authorities” (can. 377 §5).