Cardinal Joseph Zen, China’s most senior cleric, has made an eleventh-hour appeal to the Vatican to call off its agreement with China.
A deal between Rome and Beijing, in which the Vatican will acknowledge state-appointed bishops, is reported to be near. But in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Cardinal Zen calls the plan “unacceptable” and a “surrender”.
The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) was established under Mao Zedong as a state-run replacement for the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was driven underground by persecution and Catholics remain marginalised, hidden and frequently persecuted.
The Vatican has long been hostile to the CCPA and regarded its bishops as illegitimate. But according to recent reports, the Vatican could soon accept four CCPA-appointed bishops as part of a diplomatic deal.
Cardinal Zen has previously warned the Vatican against any such deal, but the Wall Street Journal interview is his most outspoken intervention yet. He describes the possible deal as “totally unacceptable”. Cardinal Zen says that “With fake bishops you are destroying the Church”, because of the influence the state can bring to bear on them.
Cardinal Zen also tells the faithful that, if the underground Church in their area is replaced by the CCPA, they should just pray at home. He warns them against the temptation to schism, saying that even if the Pope signs the deal they should not rebel against him.
The full Wall Street Journal interview is here.