Vatican denies involvement in Chinese bishop’s reversal on Patriotic Association

Vatican denies involvement in Chinese bishop’s reversal on Patriotic Association

“Methinks he [Fr. Lombardi] doth protest [or as a Jesuit, uses a mental reservation] too much.”

Catholic World News – June 23, 2016

After Cardinal Joseph Zen protested the silence of Vatican officials in the wake of a shocking public statement by Shanghai’s Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, the Vatican issued a short statement denying any role in the matter.

Bishop Ma sent shock waves through the Catholic Church in China when he posted an apology on his blog for his “errors of words and deeds against the Patriotic Association.” Bishop Ma had previously been a leading figure in opposition to the government-backed Patriotic Association; he had been under house arrest since announcing at his episcopal ordination that he was breaking from the group.

In China, the dramatic reversal by Bishop Ma prompted questions about whether the bishop had actually written the blog post, whether he was acting under pressure, and whether the Vatican had encouraged him to take a more conciliatory stand toward the Patriotic Association. In the absence of any public reaction from the Holy See, Chinese Catholics expressed some misgivings about the direction of Vatican policies toward the Beijing regime. The AsiaNews service reported anxieties as to whether the policies enunciated by Pope Benedict XVI, clearly rejecting the role of the Patriotic Association in guiding the Chinese Church, were still in effect.

The Vatican “should protect the Church’s reputation, Bishop Ma’s reputation, and eradicated that chaos and dejection in the Chinese Church,” said Cardinal Zen, the retired Bishop of Hong Kong, who has been an outspoken opponent of Beijing’s repression of the faith. He added: “Not saying anything is irresponsible.”

Soon after Cardinal Zen’s words were published, the Vatican press office issued a statement saying that the Vatican was not involved in Bishop Ma’s recent statement. Vatican officials only learned about Bishop Ma’s blog post through press reports, revealed Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office. “Any speculation with regard to a presumed role of the Holy See in inappropriate,” he added.

Father Lombardi said that Pope Francis follows the case of Bishop Ma, “like that of all Chinese Catholics,” and prays for them regularly.


Retired cardinal slams Vatican silence on Chinese cardinal’s new support for state-backed association (Hong Kong Free Press)

Declaration by Fr. Federico Lombardi, S.J. (Vatican press office)

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