ROME — Cardinal Joseph Zen wrote to all his brother cardinals of the Catholic Church begging them not to sit idly by as the Church in China is “murdered,” in a letter made public this week.
Saying he was “begging on his knees,” the former bishop of Hong Kong asked his fellow cardinals: “Can we idly watch this murder of the Church in China by those who should protect it and defend it from our enemies?” in reference to recent agreements made between the Vatican with the Chinese Communist Party.
In the letter, dated September 27, 2019 but just released this week, Cardinal Zen contends that the problem he is presenting involves the entire Church, and not just the Chinese Church, while insisting that “we cardinals have the grave responsibility of helping the Holy Father guide the Church.”
In his text, the cardinal refers to two different incidents: the September 2018 secret accord between the Holy See and the Chinese Communist Party and a document released by the Vatican in July 2019, in which Chinese priests are authorized to enlist in the ranks of the government-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.
In reference to this second text, the cardinal declares that it “quite clearly encourages the faithful in China to join a schismatic church (independent of the pope and under the orders of the communist party).”
Zen relates to the other cardinals that last July he sent a list of pressing concerns to Pope Francis, who had promised to attend to them, “but so far I have heard nothing.”
Regarding the Vatican’s secret deal regarding the naming of Catholic bishops in China, the cardinal states that “the whole situation after the signing of the accord clearly shows that nothing has changed.”
Zen also takes issue with the Vatican’s presentation of its recent actions with China as being in continuity with Francis’ predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI, something Zen says is absolutely untrue.
“This manipulation of the thought of the emeritus pope is a grave lack of respect, or rather a deplorable insult to the person of the humble pope who is still alive,” he wrote.
The cardinal goes on to say that he hopes to provide documentary evidence that the Sino-Vatican agreement is the very same text that Benedict had refused to sign while he was pope.