Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun: ‘No bad compromises’

Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun: ‘No bad compromises’

Cardinal: “We can not ask Catholics of the papal underground church to join the state church, which demands a strict independence from any foreign influence.”

[Hat-tip to Canon212: “Cd. Zen: The two-church situation in China is still very difficult and bad, ‘not only because of the Communists, but also because of the current policy of the Holy See'”]

Interview by Berthold Pelster / Church in Need / 16 May 2017
Google translation of

Munich-Hong Kong ( Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun is considered a conscience of the Catholic Church in China. Above all, he is skeptical about the ongoing negotiations of the Holy See with the Communist leaders. In his opinion, the government pursues only one goal: to subject the church to its claim to leadership. The 85-year-old was on 13 May on a meeting day of “Church in Need” Germany in the place of pilgrimage Kevelaer. With Berthold Pelster he talked about the fact that the collaboration with the state leadership also increases among Christians, the role the Catholic Church can play in the reconstruction of Chinese society – and why the Communists are afraid of the Fatima Madonna.

Church in Need: The People’s Republic of China has undergone enormous social change over the past four decades: reforms, especially in the economic sphere, have made the rise to economic and technological power. What is the significance of communist ideology today?

Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun: The leadership in China has never taken the Communist ideology particularly seriously. In Chinese Communism it is rather a form of unbridled imperialism. The sprawling corruption within the party proves this. Everything is about power. Absolute obedience to the government is the only thing that counts. And with the openings in the economic sphere and the increasing prosperity, this is getting worse and worse. The wealth continues to fuel corruption.

Church in Need: Political observers say that the human rights situation under the current President Xi Jinping has deteriorated. What are your observations?

Zen Ze-kiun: At the beginning I had hopes, because the president had gone against the corruption in the state and society. But it quickly turned out that it was only about power. Persons working for the observance of human rights are suppressed, persecuted, humiliated and condemned in propaganda processes under his government.

Church in Need: The Catholic Church is still divided in China. There is the so-called “Patriotic Association” recognized by the Communist leadership, which, however, rejects any influence of Rome. On the other hand there is the papal faithful underground church, which is subjected to severe reprisals. How is the current situation?

Zen Ze-kiun: The situation is still very difficult and bad. And I must say unfortunately, not only because of the Communists, but also because of the current policy of the Holy See. Some representatives in the Vatican are convinced that the moment of reconciliation between the two wings of the Catholic Church, the official state church and the underground church, has now come. Pope Benedict XVI In his letter to the Catholics in China, spoke of reconciliation in 2007, which meant, above all, spiritual reconciliation. But that is a long way!

Church in need: Why so skeptical?

Zen Ze-kun: We can not ask the Catholics of the papal faithful underground church to join the state church, which demands a strict independence from any foreign influence. Such independence is contrary to the Catholic faith! But also the state puts the Christians of the underground church under pressure, with very subtle methods. Bishops of the underground church, for example, were compelled to attend political training sessions during Holy Week and therefore could not celebrate the liturgy with the faithful.

Church in Need: Can you tell us something about the current state of negotiations between the Chinese leadership and the Holy See?

Zen Ze-kiun: Sadly, there is little to the outside about the conversations. Even I as a Chinese cardinal has little information about it. What I know makes me very worried. I have the great fear that the talks are going in the wrong direction, especially as regards the selection and appointment of bishops. But there are many more problems. I expect the talks to be very long. In my opinion, the government will accept no other result than the complete subjugation of the church under the leadership of the Communist Party.

Church in Need: The Vatican repeatedly stresses that there is only one Catholic Church in China, which, however, suffers from great internal tensions. Is this description correct from your personal point of view?

Zen Ze-kiun: I used to emphasize this: Yes, there is only one Catholic Church in China! Today I have my doubts. Today I observe a popular opportunism in the state church. Too many succumb to the materialistic temptations which the state authorities offer to those who submit to the power of the state. Material advantages tempt them to bring more loyalty to the power of the state than to the universal Catholic Church. Bishops in the state church are illegally consecrated with the promise: “Be without care! Sooner or later the Vatican will acknowledge you! “These are unsustainable conditions!

Church in Need: This all sounds very pessimistic. What are your expectations for Christianity in China?

Zen Ze-kiun: Everything depends on whether we are able to live our faith authentically – and not with many compromises. There are those Christians in China who bravely advocate a better society. But many of them are in jail! Should communism someday fall, then Catholics should be among those who build a new China. But this can only happen if the Catholics have not already lost their credibility by lazy compromises with the Communist leadership.

Church in need: We Catholics remind us of the apparitions of the Mother of God in Fatima exactly 100 years ago. The messages of the Mother of God from Fatima warn of the godless ideology of communism. Are these messages known among the Catholics in China?

Zen Ze-kiun: Of course! All of us know the Fatima messages. Even the Communists! They are very concerned about this and are even afraid of Fatima’s Mother of God! This assumes grotesque features: for example, if you introduce images of the “Maria Immaculata” or representations of the image of “Mary, help of the Christians” from abroad to China, then the communists have no objection. Pictures of the “Mother of God of Fatima” are forbidden. The whole Fatima incident is “anti-communist” from their point of view. And they have recognized it quite correctly!

Church in need: The leadership makes differences. The worship of Mary under the title “Help of the Christians” also has a special relationship with China. On its Day of Prayer, 24 May, the Catholic Church commemorates a worldwide prayer day for the Church in China. Pope Benedict XVI Has introduced him in 2007. What is the importance of this prayer day?

Zen Ze-kiun: The worship of the Mother of God under the title “Help of the Christians” has long been deeply rooted throughout China. This title is not only meant to help individual believers, but also help the Church as a whole. In China the main danger today is materialistic atheism. Unfortunately, this prayer day, which applies to the Catholic Church worldwide, is far too little known. He is too little taken seriously.

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2 comments on “Chinese Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun: ‘No bad compromises’

  1. Cardinal: “We can not ask Catholics of the papal underground church to join the state church, which demands a strict independence from any foreign influence.”

    God bless Cardinal Zen.

  2. Meanwhile, in the West:

    “We can not ask Catholics of the papal underground traditional church to join the state updated church, which demands a strict independence from any foreign influence adherence to novel liturgy and theologies.”

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