Cardinal Joseph Zen has accused the Vatican of “selling out” the Catholic Church in China.
In a post on his website, the former Bishop of Hong Kong said Pope Francis offered words of consolation to the ‘underground’ Church in the country in a private audience earlier this month. However, the cardinal still thinks the Vatican is working against the Church.
A report on AsiaNews last week said a Vatican delegation had asked one ‘underground’ bishop to resign and another to accept demotion. The delegation wanted excommunicated government-backed bishops to replace them.
Cardinal Zen confirmed this report, saying: “Yes, as far as I know, things happened just as they are related in AsiaNews.”
One of the underground bishops, Bishop Zhuang, asked Cardinal Zen to pass on his words to the Pope. The cardinal then travelled to Rome so he could personally hand a letter to Pope Francis. He was able to do this after the Weekly General Audience on January 10.
Later that day, he received a phone call saying Pope Francis would receive him in private audience on Friday, January 12. Cardinal Zen said that during that audience, he asked Pope Francis whether he had had time to “look into the matter”.
The Pope responded: “Yes, I told them not to create another Mindszenty case!”
Cardinal Mindszenty was Archbishop of Budapest during Hungary’s Communist dictatorship. The regime imprisoned him, but he was able to flee to the American embassy during the anti-Communist uprising of 1956.
However, under pressure from the Communist government, the Holy See told the Cardinal to leave the country and replaced him with a successor more to the government’s liking.
Cardinal Zen said the Pope’s words “should be rightly understood as of consolation and encouragement more for [suffering Catholics in China] than for me”.
Despite the reassurance, the cardinal says he is not optimistic: “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.”
He concludes on a defiant note: “Am I the major obstacle in the process of reaching a deal between the Vatican and China? If that is a bad deal, I would be more than happy to be the obstacle.”