Cardinal Joseph Zen: Vatican’s Approach to China Relations is ‘Unwise’

Hong Kong’s 90-year-old Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen, an open critic of what he views as the Vatican’s soft approach to China, criticized the Holy See for being “unwise” despite its “perhaps good intention.”

Newsroom (28/11/2021 09:41, Gaudium Press) (30/05/2022 6:17 PM Gaudium Press) Cardinal Zen, one of Asia’s most senior Catholic clerics, spoke during a mass he led last Tuesday evening in a Hong Kong church to mark the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

Coincidentally, just a few hours before the mass, the retired bishop and five others appeared in a Hong Kong court to plead not guilty to charges over an alleged failure to register a fund that supported protesters in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement in 2019.

Their court appearance came two weeks after Zen and four of the five defendants were arrested on suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, a more serious offence for which they have not been charged. The arrest of Zen sent shockwaves throughout the Catholic world and drew widespread criticism internationally.

During the 1.5-hour mass at Holy Cross Church in Sai Wan Ho, the soft-spoken cardinal subtly criticized the Roman Catholic Church’s historic 2018 agreement with China. It implies that government officials can choose bishops for the Pope to approve while China recognizes the Pope as head of the Catholic Church.

“It’s said that all bishops in China are now recognized by the Pope, and the Holy See has signed an agreement [with China], meaning they [China] recognize the Pope,” Card Zen noted.

“The church has been unwise in certain areas although it may have good intentions. [It is] very impatient. It wants [China’s] open church and underground church to become one. Is there wholehearted faith? Perhaps not.”

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Presently, some 12 million Chinese Catholics are divided between those belonging to a state-sanctioned church and an underground one loyal to Rome. Zen has called the 2018 deal a “sell-out” of underground Catholics in China.

In 2020, he travelled to Rome to urge Pope Francis not to renew the deal but was denied a Papal audience. Currently, the Vatican is working on renewing the agreement again with Beijing later this year. Following Zen’s arrest two weeks ago, the Vatican said that it was “following the development of the situation with extreme attention.”

During his court appearance Tuesday morning, together with five others, including pop singer Denise Ho, former opposition lawmakers Margaret Ng and Cyd Ho and scholar Hui Po-Keung, it was heard that they allegedly failed to register the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund as an organization with the police.

Zen, an active pro-democracy advocate in Hong Kong, and four of the defendants were trustees of the fund. The sixth defendant, Sze Shing-Wai, was the organization’s secretary, set up in 2019 to help arrested or injured protesters in need of help.

If convicted, they could face a fine of up to HK$10,000 (about US$1,275). The trial of the case will begin in September.

For the case related to suspicion of collusion with foreign forces, Zen, Denise Ho, Ng and Hui have to report to Police in August. Cyd Ho is currently in jail, serving a prison sentence. Under the harsh national security recently imposed on Hong Kong by Beijing, the offence carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

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(Via La Prensa Latina)

Compiled by RajuHasmukh

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