Cardinal Zen Accuses Vatican Chief of Lying About China Accord

In this picture taken on March 5, 2018, Cardinal Joseph Zen, 86, former Bishop of Hong Kong, listens to a question during an interview with AFP in Hong Kong. Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen has earned a reputation as a fighter -- the octogenarian's latest battle pits him against Vatican …
ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images

ROME — The redoubtable Cardinal Joseph Zen has attacked the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, over recent remarks about the Holy See’s deal with China, accusing the Vatican chief of telling “a series of lies.”

In a scathing October 7 post titled “For the sake of the truth I will not be silent,” Cardinal Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, said that the speech delivered on October 3 in Milan by Cardinal Parolin was “sickening.”

“Since he is neither stupid nor ignorant, he told a series of lies with his eyes wide open,” Zen asserted.

Zen’s primary bone of contention is Parolin’s assertion of absolute continuity between the pontificate of Pope Francis with that of his predecessors Popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI on the question of relations between the Holy See and China.

In 2018, Pope Francis signed an unprecedented accord with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) regarding the appointment of Catholic bishops in China. Critics of the deal insist that it represents a stark departure from the positions of John Paul and Benedict, but Parolin insisted on October 3 that critics are wrong and Francis is in harmony with prior popes. He even went so far as to say that Pope Benedict had viewed the draft text of the agreement and personally approved it.

“Parolin knows he is lying; he knows that I know he is a liar; he knows that I will tell everyone that he is a liar; so in addition to being brazen, he is also bold,” Zen writes. “But at this point what will he not dare to do? I think he does not even fear his conscience.”

“The most repugnant thing is the insult to the venerable Benedict XVI by saying that he approved at the time the agreement signed by the Holy See two years ago, knowing that our sweetest, most gentle Benedict certainly will not come out to deny it,” Zen states.

In his 2007 letter on China, Pope Benedict made clear the principle that must guide every dialogue, Zen writes, namely that you cannot seek an accord at any cost.

“In the light of these unrenounceable principles, the solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities,” Benedict wrote to Chinese Catholics. At the same time, “compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church.”

“In practice, there was no continuity between Benedict and Francis,” Zen writes, “and nor is there continuity in the person of Parolin.”

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