Hong Kong Cardinal Zen against Vatican diplomacy in Communist China

Hong Kong Cardinal Zen against Vatican diplomacy in Communist China

Settimo Cielo (Seventh Heaven)
by Sandro Magister
Jan. 11 ’16


[Google translation: Currently available only in Italian; will substitute any better translation when and if available]

In the speech that he addressed on January 11 to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, with a large section focused on migrants, Pope Francis has not said a word about China.

But we know that this great country is in the foreground in the attention of Francis, which he remembers the impetuous response to a reporter’s question: “If you go to China? Tomorrow!”.

In mid-October a Vatican delegation went to Beijing. And it transpired that he discussed the procedures for the appointment of bishops, whose recent settlements have taken place almost all to the will of the only communist authorities, in defiance of the authority of the pope.

And the delegates discussed the Vatican he would not require advance as a condition “sine qua non” of the negotiations, the release of Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding, some time in jail, and the Bishop Ma Daqin of Shanghai, to house arrest for more than three years.

The meetings would come to nothing. which has not prevented the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, to declare that “talk is already positive” and “is part of a process that hopefully will end with an agreement.”

Even more optimistic is the picture of the current relations between Beijing and Rome dashed from a book published recently, written by a Chinese Shanghai converted to Catholicism as an adult and a research fellow at the University Sophia Focolare in Loppiano in Tuscany:

> Kim claret Sheung Yan, “The Gospel beyond the Great Wall”, EMI, Bologna, 2015

But there is also a downside. And it is the deadly indictment of Vatican diplomacy published by the Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong – former advisor of Benedict XVI for China but marginalized by Pope Francis – the day of the solemn presentation in Rome, in a ‘ classroom of Vatican Radio, the book just quoted.

According to Zen, on the appointment of Chinese bishops but not only, the path embarked on by Vatican diplomacy can only lead to an outlet receiver, equal to that of Ostpolitik with communist countries.

So in fact Zen concludes his indictment:

“What I do not let it calm to see our eminent Secretary of State still intoxicated miracle Ostpolitik. In a speech last year, commemorating the Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, praised the success of its predecessor have ensured the existence of Church hierarchy in communist countries of Eastern Europe. He said: ‘In choosing candidates for the episcopate, we choose the shepherds and people who oppose the regime on principle, people with attitude of gladiators, people who love the show political stage ‘. I wonder: Who had in mind the cardinal while doing this description? I’m afraid I was thinking of a Cardinal Wyszynski, a Cardinal Mindszenty, a Cardinal Beran. But these are the heroes who bravely defended the faith of their people! It scares me to think this way, I hope I got it wrong.

“The day that you will sign that agreement with China there will be peace and joy, but do not expect me to participate in the celebrations of the beginning of this new church. I disappear, I will start a monastic life to pray and do penance. I will ask to excuse Pope Benedict for not being able to do what he hoped I would I could do. I will ask Pope Francis to forgive this old cardinal suburban for disturbing him with many letters inappropriate.

“The innocent children were killed, the angel told Joseph to take Mary and Child fleeing to safety. But today our diplomats might advise Joseph to go and groped a dialogue with Herod?”.

The full text of the indictment of Cardinal Zen is on this page of “Asia News”:

> What will 2016 bring the Church in China [See comment below]

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3 comments on “Hong Kong Cardinal Zen against Vatican diplomacy in Communist China

  1. What will 2016 bring the Church in China?

    by Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun
    9 January 2016

    There is still so much optimism about dialogue between China and the Vatican, but the facts tells us that the government is taking possession of every space in the life of the Church: the ordination of bishops, control of seminaries, obligation to participate in celebrations with excommunicated or illegitimate bishops. Instead silence shrouds the fate of bishops in jail or under house arrest. The Vatican seems to want to leave the power to appoint bishops in the hands of the government. The return of [Pope Paul VI’s Secretary of State] Cardinal Casaroli’s appeasement Ostpolitik and the disappearance of the underground Church. An analysis by the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, combative defender of religious freedom in China and the Territory.

    Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – I have not spoken about the Church in China on my blog for some time now. Certainly not because I am too busy to do so (busy as I may be, I will never lose interest of our Church in China), not because I fear criticism of my ideas (at my age I have nothing to gain or lose).

    No, the problem is that I’d like to give some good news, but, as you will note, my fate is that of the prophet Jeremiah. I have searched at length for some good news, but have found none. I realise that during this season of Christmas and the New Year, my complaints are somewhat “extra chorum”, but I cannot be a dog without a bark.


    I remember that at the beginning of last year the newspaper Wen Wei Po announced jubilantly that “relations between China and the Vatican will soon have a good development.” Soon after, the Vatican Secretary of State said that “the prospects are promising, there is a desire for dialogue on both sides.” I had my doubts about this unexpected wave of optimism, I saw no basis for this optimism. More than a thousand crosses were removed from the top of the churches (in some cases the churches themselves have been destroyed). After so long, we can no longer delude ourselves that this was anything beyond an episode of some local official’s exaggerated zeal. Several seminaries have been closed. Students of the National Seminary in Beijing were forced to sign a declaration of loyalty to the Independent Church, promising also to concelebrate with illegitimate bishops (otherwise they would not receive a diploma at the end of their studies). The Government is continuously strengthening a church that now objectively is already separated from the universal Catholic Church; with enticements and threats they induce the clergy to perform acts contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church, denying their conscience and their dignity.


    In the latter half of 2015, there were some promising events which however failed to live up to expectations. Bishop Wu Qin-jing of Zhouzhi, ten years after his episcopal ordination, was finally installed as bishop, but has yet to pay the price of a compromise (see my blog of 14 July 2015).

    Shortly after, Bishop Zhang Yinlin Anyang was ordained. Even some usually cautious Catholic media rejoiced saying that everything had gone well. They pointed out that this ordination is the first after the last three years of contacts between Rome and Beijing, and also the first in Pope Francis’ pontificate, presenting the event as a good start.

    It is this last statement that scares me, because the process included a “democratic election”, the reading of a “decree of appointment by the (so-called) Episcopal Conference of China” and the canonically un-clear position of a consecrating bishop . A similarly abnormal process took place three years ago, does it deserve our rejoicing? (See my blog of 7 September 2015).


    In October comes the big news: A Vatican delegation was in Beijing, there was a meeting. The Holy See gave no news of it. Father Heyndrickx Jeroom broke the news (of course he knows everything). He says: “They did not discuss sensitive issues like Bishop Su Zhimin of Baoding still in detention, or such as Bishop Ma Daqin of Shanghai to house arrest for more than three years (but these problems should be resolved before any negotiations? Otherwise Obviously there is goodwill on the part of Beijing). They focused on the issue of appointing bishops (of which model? Like with Anyang?). After the meeting, the delegation paid a visit to Bishop Li Shan of Beijing and the National Seminary where they met with Ma Ying Lin (Father Heyndrickx said that these are signs of goodwill on the part of Beijing, I think instead that they were acts of homage imposed by Beijing)”.

    Later the Vatican Secretary of State also confirmed that there was a meeting and that it was “very positive” and this “would be part of a process that will hopefully end with an agreement.” Pressed by some journalists as to whether there was real progress, Cardinal Parolin responded: “The fact that we speak is already positive.” It seems that there is no agreement in sight as of yet.


    So what is the formula now under discussion for the appointment of bishops? As an old Cardinal out on the peripheries, I have no way of knowing, let alone guessing.

    A recent article “A winter of darkness for religions in China” by Bernardo Cervellera on AsiaNews, says: “From information that has arrived from China it would seem that Beijing’s proposal is limited to complete recognition by the Holy See for all official bishops (even illegitimate and excommunicated bishops), without any mention of the unofficial bishops and those in prison; Vatican approval of the government recognized Council of Bishops, which excludes underground bishops; approval of the competency of this Council (and not the Pope) in the appointment of new candidates to the episcopacy who will be “democratically” elected (in short according to the suggestions of the Patriotic Association). The Holy See must approve the Council’s appointment and has a weak veto only in “severe” cases, which must be justified if used. If the Holy See’s justifications are considered “insufficient”, the Council of Bishops may decide to proceed anyway”.

    If this information is accurate, can the Holy See accept the claims of the Chinese counterpart? Does this approach still respect the true authority of the Pope to appoint bishops? Can the Pope can sign such an agreement? (Pope Benedict said: “The authority of the Pope to appoint bishops is given to the church by its founder Jesus Christ, it is not the property of the Pope, neither can the Pope give it to others”).

    Do our officials in Rome know what an election is in China? Do they know that the so-called Episcopal Conference is not only illegitimate, but simply does not exist? What exists is an organism that is called “One Association and One Conference”, namely the Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference always work together as one body, which is always chaired by government officials (there are pictures to prove it, the Government does not even try more to keep up appearances, it starkly flaunts the fact that they now manage religion!). Signing such an agreement means the authority to appoint bishops delivering into the hands of an atheist government.

    This scheme is often compared to a (poorly defined) Model Vietnamese, but it is much worse. The Vietnamese model is based on an initiative that began with the Church in Vietnam, the true Catholic Church in Vietnam. In China on the other hand, the so-called Association and Conference hide the reality that it is the Government calling the shots.

    Even in Eastern Europe of the past, such as in Poland and Czechoslovakia, it was the Church that took the initiative and then gave the Government veto power. In doing so, even if the government vetos a proposal for the hundredth time, it is still the Church that presents a candidate and makes the appointment. If the Government insists on a veto, it will only prolong the impasse, and it will still allow the Church time to look for a suitable candidate. But it is unthinkable to leave the initial proposal in the hands of an atheist Government who cannot possible judge the suitability of a candidate to be a bishop. Obviously, if the Church gives in to pressure from the government, the only result – despite proclamations to the contrary – is that it will have sold out the pontifical right to appoint bishops. Can this happen? According to an article written by a certain András Fejerdy: “For pastoral reasons – that is, because the full administration of the sacraments requires completely consecrated bishops – the Holy See believed that the completion of the Hungarian Bishops’ Conference was so urgent that it accepted a solution that formally did not upset the canonical principle of free appointment, but that in practice gave the regime a decisive influence in choosing the candidates”.

    UCAN News reports recent news from Chengdu (Sichuan): “Shortly after the visit of the Vatican delegation to Beijing, the Holy See approved the episcopal candidate elected in May 2014”. Is this also a case of “not upsetting the canonical principle of free appointment, but …in practice giving the regime a decisive influence in choosing the candidates “?


    It is said that dialogue focused on the issue of the appointment of bishops, but there are many other pending problems, when and how will they be resolved?

    The aforementioned AsiaNews article stated, again based on information received from China: “Beijing (demands) the Holy See’s recognition of all the official bishops, even the illegitimate and excommunicated ones.” I wonder: is it only the government that makes these demands, without repentance of those concerned? Will the excommunicated only be released from excommunication or even recognized as bishops? Even without any act of repentance? Has the mercy of God come to this? Will the faithful be obliged to obey these bishops?

    So much remains to be resolved.

    Illegitimate bishops who have been excommunicated have abused the sacramental power (including ordination of deacons and priests) and judicial (assigning offices) and the Holy See seems to be without rebuke for them.

    Legitimate bishops who participated in illegitimate episcopal ordinations, one, two, even three, four times, without ever having asked for forgiveness, or having received forgiveness from the Holy Father. Also those who took part in the so-called Assembly of Representatives of Chinese Catholics (the clearest symbol of a schismatic church).

    Shortly after the Vatican delegation’s journey to Beijing began, the government organized a large gathering of Church leaders, forcing on that occasion a celebration of all the bishops, legitimate, illegitimate and excommunicated. These are all objectively schismatic acts. The government now can string along a large number of bishops, resulting in an irrecoverable loss of dignity. If the Holy See signed some agreement with the Government without clarifying all these things, it will cause a severe wound to the conscience of the faithful.


    Obviously our underground communities are non-existent for the Government. But now is even the Vatican ignoring them in negotiations, to appease their Chinese counterparts? To “save the day” will we abandon our brothers and sisters? But they are the healthy limbs of the Church! (Of course, they too have their problems, especially when dioceses remain without bishops, which can only lead to disorder). Is silencing the underground community to please the government not a form of suicide?

    In the recent negotiations there has been no mention of the case of Msgr. James Su Zhimin in prison for 20 years. Nor of Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai under house arrest for more than three years because these issues have been deemed “too sensitive” !?

    In early September, some of the Shanghai faithful who were in prison for a long time, along with their relatives, went on a pilgrimage to Rome to commemorate the sixtieth anniversary of the outbreak of the great persecution on September 8, 1955. The understanding was: “Do not make any noise, the past is past, we have to look forward”!?

    On a diplomatic level, the underground communities are the ace in the Holy See’s deck; if we amputate these limbs, what have we left in diplomatic standings to induce the other party to agree to our terms? By now, the government controls nearly all the official communities, while the underground communities are kept at bay by the Holy See. What do they still need so come to terms? They only need the signature of the Holy Father, a blessing, for this “Chinese Church.” Beijing has no intention of negotiating, only making demands. After such a signature they will oblige the faithful of the underground community to come out and surrender to those who were illegitimate bishops for a long time, maybe even excommunicated, but now, with a clean slate, without even showing any repentance, leaning only on the Government for their legitimacy, have become bishops in their own right.


    What makes me restless is the sight of our Eminent Secretary of State still intoxicated by the miracles of Ostpolitik. In a speech last year, at a Memorial for Card. Casaroli, he praised the success of its predecessor in having secured the existence of the Church hierarchy in the communist countries of Eastern Europe. He says: “In choosing candidates for the episcopate, we choose shepherds and not people who systematically oppose the regime, people who behave like gladiators, people who love to grandstand on the political stage.” I wonder: Who had he in mind while making this description? I fear that he was thinking of a Cardinal Wyszynski, a Cardinal Mindszenty, a Cardinal Beran. But these are the heroes who bravely defended the faith of their people! It terrifies me to think this way and I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

    On the day that an agreement is signed with China there will be peace and joy, but do not expect me to participate in the celebrations of the beginning of this new Church. I disappear, I will start a monastic life to pray and do penance. I will ask the forgiveness of Pope Benedict for not being able to do what he was hoping that I could I do. I will ask Pope Francis to forgive this old Cardinal from the peripheries for disturbing him with so many inappropriate letters.

    The innocent children were killed, the angel told Joseph to take Mary and the Child and flee to safety. But today would our diplomats advise Joseph to go and humbly beg for dialogue with Herod !?


    Please let it not be said that I believe the only line is that of either or, of “official or unofficial”. The vast majority of the clergy and lay people who belong to the official community are faithful to the authority of the Holy Father. Many are suffering enormously because of the abnormal situation of their Church, they are saddened by the weakness or lack of rectitude of their pastors, sometimes they even try to prevent them from falling further. In many cases a united clergy and a faithful people can defend their pastor from further bullying from the Authorities.

  2. [While the Church sacrifices Her religious freedom]

    The West sacrifices its press freedom to do business with Communist China

    by Wei Jingsheng
    11 January 2016

    The great Chinese dissident warns that after the expulsion of the French reporter Ursula Gauthier: “The politicians of the Old Continent are already on the payroll of Xi Jinping. If we let him get his hands on foreign newspapers the fight for democracy in China has no future”. A word of advice from the author of the Democracy Wall, “We should begin to suspect most of the articles are dictated by Beijing.”

    Washington (AsiaNews) – By observing the changes of the situation over the past year, we can roughly predict the situation for the New Year. Many media have various predictions of China in the aspects of economy, politics, etc. So I will not repeat someone else’s work. Now I want to give a supplement to look from a new perspective.

    In the next two days, Ursula Gauthier, a French journalist expelled by the Chinese government, will have to leave the China that she loved. When I was in France, I talked with her at some friend’s home. She is really passionate about China, especially about Chinese people and Chinese culture. Moreover, unlike some reporters who pretend neutrality, she really is a reporter with a strong stand on human rights issues.

    Further, she cares about human rights in China more than human rights in other countries, which might be due to her fluent Chinese. She must understand Chinese culture in depth, thus love the Chinese people as well. When I heard the news that she will be forced to depart China, my first reaction was: ah, how did the Communist regime even tolerate her spending six years in China?

    Maybe the photograph of Xi Jinping in the background of her photo illustrates the issue. With a good understanding of Chinese culture, she learned a little cunning to protect herself – she learned to protect herself with camouflage like the Chinese people do, instead of talking of true thoughts without guarding of mouths like those in a free society in the West. That way will not let someone stay in China for six years. Or otherwise, one would just become like some other foreign reporters who become the mouthpiece of the deceptive propaganda of the Communist regime — both deceiving foreign readers, but also Chinese people when their reports were imported back to China.

    As a foreign correspondent, one should not cheat one’s readers. This is the bottom line or the minimum moral charge of a reporter. Generally speaking, during the eras of Jiang Zemin and Hu Jintao, reporters were accepted for standing above this basic bottom line. Regarding the articles written by the foreign correspondents that were published in foreign media, the Chinese government did not peruse the accountability in depth. To the most, they gave some warning from time to time, to demonstrate that it is not that the Chinese government does not know but just does not want to pursue it. Meanwhile, it also meant that the Chinese government still accepted freedom of speech of these foreign reporters in their own countries.

    Since Xi Jinping came to power, he persecuted several foreign reporters and their media. That was because these media exposed the false anti-corruption campaign by Xi Jinping, even exposed the corruption of Xi Jinping and Wang Qishan themselves. Perhaps these materials were provided by their enemies within the Communist regime, leading to a suspicion of being involved in the struggle within the Communist Party, so it resulted in an even more intensified reaction.

    But from these few cases, the Communist regime discovered a new world. That is in order to do business with China, the Western governments do not really care about the freedom of speech that their journalists should have enjoyed as in the West, or do not care if their journalists cheat their own people or not — maybe these governments hope their people are lied to after all.

    Just as they got impatient with Chinese human rights issues in private, they may have told those reporters who have conscience: Do not use your little freedom to trouble our big business. We still need the support from our business community to get elected. Without the approval of the Communist regime, which company would dare to support my campaign? If I lost the support of several companies, I could lose my re-election as well. This is our big problem.

    Now, many people who serve Xi Jinping once studied in the USA and have a better understanding of these deficiencies of the Western politics. They finally realized that they could use these flaws to control the Western politics and media. During the eras of Deng Xiaoping and Jiang Zemin, they were very successful at applying this method to control and to influence the Western politics. Recently, Xi Jinping spent a lot of money in Western countries, for the same purpose to strengthen the control of this area.

    But the Communist China has been spending a lot of money in the West for decades; why has it not been in full control of the Western politicians? There is a problem – the problem of the media. When the media is not fully controlled, the Western voters are not completely deceived. So politicians have great difficulty to cooperate with the Chinese Communist Party, while politicians concerned about human rights have a great advantage to convince their voters.

    During the recent election campaign in the USA, the candidates with most advantage have taken the China issue as a holy grail to attack their opponents, and force their opponents to change their positions and strengthen the attacks against the Communist regimes. This change shows that the effectiveness of the old policy has reduced; the approach of buying the Western capitalists by letting them take advantage of the Chinese market, thus being able to buy out the politicians indirectly is no longer enough. “Political reform” has to adopt new thinking in this regard.

    This new thinking is to aim at the media, especially the reporters in China, and particularly the reporters who are fluent in Chinese. The idea is to keep those foreign reporters who dawdle their jobs because they do not know Chinese well enough and have to use the unified releases from the Xinhua News Agency. Combined with both incentives and penalties, with two-pronged soft and tough approaches, the Chinese government can control the foreign media to the level of 1970’s.

    Back then, there were only two reporters of British and French origin who dared to meet me in Beijing, not even the American reporters dared. Their bosses and governments were peeking into the possibility of doing business in China. I guess that during Deng Xiaoping’s visit to the United States, he had revealed this stand to then US President Carter in exchange for his support of the invasion of Vietnam. Afterward, the open economy while maintaining authoritarian policies of Deng Xiaoping received a strong support from the United States, which probably was also negotiated in private at that time.

    Now the situation is that Xi Jinping wants to return the domestic policy back to the Mao Zedong era. Of course, he also wants to return to the time when the false imagination of China by the Western leftists influenced the Western voters. Here is an important part of the effort: to make the Western media not know the truth about China. Preferably it should be the same as those years, when the reporters did not understand Chinese and thus could only read and pass the unified news releases by the Xinhua News Agency and press conferences.

    Another very important aspect is that the Chinese people, even Chinese officials, do not believe Chinese media, but just believe foreign media. So to import back the intended “news” from abroad, is the only way to continuously deceive the Chinese people. Therefore, to control the Western media is not merely an issue of foreign diplomacy, but the full issue of whether the dictatorship could continue in China. This is the main task of Xi Jinping’s rule.

    That they chose to attack the French correspondent is because France is a small country and has become increasingly weak over the years. Even ISIS chose to attack France first. So Xi Jinping will pick up the soft persimmon to pinch first and chose France as well. It seems Xi is very successful and soon will fully implement his new thinking to control the foreign media.

    The advice I want to give to my Chinese friends is that not only should we not listen to the lies by the Communist media, we should also analyze what we hear from the Western media in the future. As we try to prevent ourselves from being cheated by the Communist regime, we must also prevent the deception of these foreign media that are being snatched by the Chinese government.

  3. In the recent negotiations there has been no mention of the case of Msgr. James Su Zhimin in prison for 20 years. Nor of Msgr. Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai under house arrest for more than three years because these issues have been deemed “too sensitive” !?

    I fear that he was thinking of a Cardinal Wyszynski, a Cardinal Mindszenty, a Cardinal Beran. But these are the heroes who bravely defended the faith of their people! It terrifies me to think this way and I sincerely hope that I am wrong.

    God bless Cardinal Zen! He is of the good cardinals, the ones he named, who fought the commies. Wojtyla, Ratzinger, Bergoglio all kow tow’ed to the fake commie “patriotic” church.

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