Cardinal Joseph Zen has accused the Vatican of “selling out” the Chinese Church.
His remark came after a rare private audience with Pope Francis. The cardinal met Francis in 2013 but has since expressed fears his letters to the Pope have not reached him.
He had travelled to Rome to personally hand a letter to Pope Francis from an “underground” prelate, Bishop Zhuang – one of two bishops who have been asked by a Vatican delegation to resign or accept demotion to make way for government-backed bishops.
Cardinal Zen gave the Pope the letter at his weekly general audience.
Later that day, he received a phone call saying Pope Francis would receive him in a private audience on Friday. 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. But 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”. But the cardinal said he was not overly 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.”
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