Vatican Issues Statement Contradicting Cardinal Zen

Taiwan News reported how, last Wednesday, Hong Kong’s 86-year-old Cardinal emeritus Joseph Zen (陳日君) appeared in Saint Peter’s Square, lined up in the cold with other petitioners, seeking to deliver a letter directly into the hands of Pope Francis. He was coming to deliver a letter from the “underground” Catholic congregation in China, so that the pope would better understand why they oppose submitting to the Communist regime. It was all in vain. See below this troubling article on 1Peter5 giving the latest information.


By Steve Skojec

A new statement from the Holy See Press Office today indicates that despite assertions to the contrary from an outspoken Chinese cardinal, Pope Francis is fully aware and approves of recent diplomatic steps taken by the Vatican to appease the Chinese government.

Yesterday, we reported that Cardina Joseph Zen, bishop-emeritus of Hong Kong, had released a statement explaining recent events in Sino-Vatican relations from his own perspective — including his recent meeting with the pope on January 12th. Of that meeting, Cardinal Zen recounted:

[T]he conversation lasted about half an hour. I was rather disorderly in my talking, but I think I succeeded to convey to the Holy Father the worries of his faithful children in China.

The most important question I put to the Holy Father (which was also in the letter) was whether he had had time “to look into the matter” (as he promised Archbishop Savio Hon). In spite of the danger of being accused of breach of confidentiality, I decide to tell you what His Holiness said: “Yes, I told them (his collaborators in the Holy See) not to create another Mindszenty case”! I was there in the presence of the Holy Father representing my suffering brothers in China. His words should be rightly understood as of consolation and encouragement more for them than for me.

I think it was most meaningful and appropriate for the Holy Father to make this historical reference to Card. Josef Mindszenty, one of the heroes of our faith. (Card. Josef Mindszenty was the Archbishop of Budapest, Cardinal Primate of Hungary under Communist persecution. He suffered much in several years in prison. During the short-lived revolution of 1956, he was freed from prison by the insurgents and, before the Red Army crashed the revolution, took refuge in the American Embassy. Under the pressure of the Government he was ordered by the Holy See to leave his country and immediately a successor was named to the likings of the Communist Government).

With this revelation, I hope I have satisfied the legitimate “right to know” of the media and of my brothers in China.

In a clarifying note at the bottom of his statement, Zen re-iterated, however, that despite the “consolation and encouragement” he found in the pope’s words, the Vatican’s demand to replace certain legitimate Chinese bishops with government-appointed ones is a serious problem:

So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.

The impression of his overall assessment is that the compromises between the Vatican and Beijing — compromises Zen opposes — are the fault of Vatican diplomats, and not the pope.

Immediately after his statement began making the rounds, Crux, an American Catholic news outlet funded by the Knights of Columbus and seen by many as a virtual propaganda arm of the pope’s agenda of “reform,” ran a piece with the headline: “Cardinal Zen attacks Vatican efforts to rehabilitate government-appointed Chinese bishops“.

Such a bold headline — which almost instantly generated outrage from Catholics concerned for the plight of the faithful in China — was perhaps the first indication of how the Vatican viewed Zen’s statement.

Today’s statement from the Holy See was a less direct slap in the face of Cardinal Zen — but a slap nonetheless:

With reference to widespread news on a presumed difference of thought and action between the Holy Father and his collaborators in the Roman Curia on issues relating to China, I am able to state the following:

“The Pope is in constant contact with his collaborators, in particular in the Secretariat of State, on Chinese issues, and is informed by them faithfully and in detail on the situation of the Catholic Church in China and on the steps in the dialogue in progress between the Holy See and the People’s Republic of China, which he follows with special attention. It is therefore surprising and regrettable that the contrary is affirmed by people in the Church, thus fostering confusion and controversy”.

In other words, Don’t listen to the meddling old Chinese cardinal who is worried about his people who are simply trying to live their faith without communist interference. The pope is on board with the current Vatican Ostpolitik, and fully approves.

Catholics, take note.


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5 Responses to Vatican Issues Statement Contradicting Cardinal Zen

  1. kathleen says:

    This is tremendously serious stuff… I am amazed it has triggered such little general interest in the West, save that from some of the most orthodox Catholic press and blogs.

    What we have here are millions of faithful Chinese Catholics from the underground Catholic Church in China on the brink of being thrown to the lions (i.e. through a deal with the vicious, atheistic Communist authorities) by a cowardly handful of Vatican progressives… replacing the two loyal underground bishops with two puppet bishops of the patriotic Church.

    Just the word “patriotic” says it all, doesn’t it? Patriotic to the state (like Henry VIII’s subservient clerics who apostatised and formed the Protestant Anglican church, so no longer Catholic, and their orders now ‘null and void’?) No way! Our first love and loyalty is always to God, whatever the cost. The underground Catholic Church in China has suffered greatly for their years of faithfulness to Christ and His Church – are they now to be abandoned by members of the same Church in the name of ecumaniac “dialogue”?? What a cruel and underhand betrayal!

    The tireless, courageous but ancient, Cardinal Zen has done all in his power to warn the pope and Vatican of the disaster that would befall the faithful Chinese Catholics, and the ingenuity of believing anything the Communists say (e.g., assuring the Vatican that their appointed patriotic bishops are sound, and that the underground Catholic Church will be safe in their hands). Once these ‘patriotic’ bishops who kowtow to the Communist Government are installed, they will obey their Communist leaders first. Soon afterwards the persecution of true Catholics who refuse to compromise their Faith will begin!

    This is what Cardinal Zen knows and can foresee, hence the last two years he has spent beseeching the pope, Vatican officials, and all the rest of the Church that will listen to him, not to give in to the Communists’ demands at any cost.

    Perhaps it is already too late to stall the replacement of bishops. All we can do now is storm Heaven with prayers for our Catholic brethren in China.


  2. kathleen says:

    For further reading on this catastrophe, see these articles (if you haven’t already done so):

    Robert Royal’s excellent summary at ‘The Catholic Thing’, The China Syndrome.
    In an update about the above-mentioned letter Cardinal Zen presented to Pope Francis, RR says:

    Cardinal Zen has published an account of these events this morning that confirms the basic story and adds that he is pessimistic about the line the Vatican is pursuing. In addition, he says that the government is cracking down on religious institutions, and starting February 1, “attendance to Mass in the underground will no longer be tolerated.”


    [The Chinese Communists] are smart and shrewd. They know how to manipulate Western values, in this case, “unifying” the churches, i.e., the religious inclination to think we can fix all problems with dialogue, building bridges, diplomatic arrangements.

    Meanwhile, China continues to cut crosses off church buildings, close some, dynamite still others.[…]

    The Vatican seems to be stumbling in its relations with a regime that we can be sure will not respect the freedom of the Church since it doesn’t respect the freedom and dignity of its own people. Vatican negotiators would do well to remember the lessons of the Communist Era in Europe, particularly Solzhenitsyn’s warning that we must fully understand the nature of Communist regimes and not give in to the illusion that the split between us and them “may be abolished through successful diplomatic negotiations.” Because the split is spiritual, deeply so, not political.

    And this article in the ‘Catholic Herald’ yesterday, ‘Vatican and China: Cardinal Zen’s intervention raises some very uncomfortable questions’, asking whether Pope Francis is truly ‘in the know’ of what’s going on here, or not, is interesting.

    If the cardinal is right, the Vatican delegation in China went behind the Pope’s back and defied his wishes

    In this other article of the ‘Catholic Herald’ today, ‘Cardinal Parolin defends Vatican’s strategy in China’, it seems unlikely Pope Francis doesn’t know exactly what’s going on!

    Cardinal Parolin reiterated this point.

    “The Holy Father personally follows current contacts with the authorities of the People’s Republic of China. All his collaborators act in concert with him. No one takes private initiatives. Frankly, any other kind of reasoning seems to me to be out of place,” the Cardinal said.


    This latest from Card. Parolin – Pope Francis’ righthand man – certainly appears to confirm Steve Skojec’s assumption! More than “a slap” to good Cardinal Zen who believed in PF’s assurances, it has become a metaphorical stab in the back.


  3. johnhenrycn says:

    Excellent points you make in following up this sad story, Kathleen. The man at the top is such a disappointment. I can no longer read or listen to anything he says without an involuntary tightening and downward turning of my stiff upper (and lower).


  4. Mary Salmond says:

    Kathleen: thanks for the extended readings. Across the ocean, we can only pray the people can keep the faith!


  5. kathleen says:

    @ JH

    I’m still laughing as I try to picture your expression of a “tightening and downward turning of [your] stiff upper (and lower)” whenever you hear anything from “the man at the top” 😆.
    Would you be bold enough to send us a pic?

    @ Mary

    Yes, I agree, but faith and prayer are very powerful weapons for combatting evil.


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