Last week, a friend with strong ties to various figures in the Holy See told me over lunch something brewing on the front-burner in Rome. I was sworn to refrain from blogging and even now, cannot say more that I know but there is a story made public earlier this week by Sandro Magister.
Is this potential of diplomatic relations between The Holy See and the communist People's Republic of China something which we've seen this before? Is history is repeating itself?
Is the Ostpolitik of Paul VI and the sell-out of Hungary and Ukraine and the great Cardinals Mindzenty and Slipyj about to repeated by making a deal with the devil himself?
Is the persecution of Roman Catholics in the People's Republic of China to be ignored for the sake of diplomatic prestige and convenience?
Are the Vatican diplomats, held at bay by Benedict XVI, ready to put before Pope Francis the selling out of millions of Catholic bishops, priests, religious and laity who gave up their lives for their faith rather than submit to the communist devils?
What is the price for relations with China?
What will this mean for the Nunciature in Taiwan and the Catholics there?
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What would relations with China mean for its evil "one-child policy" and forced abortion upon women? Will the Church demand it be dropped for recognition and diplomatic relations?
What would it mean for the real Catholic Church in China, that which is underground; will they become the new schismatics?
What of the opinion of the great Emeritus Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong; who says, "no agreement is better than a bad agreement?
Are we about to see the Catholic Church make an equivalent deal as Obama with Iran on nuclear weapons for the sake of an agreement?
Perhaps there has been too much reading around the Vatican of Mao's Little Red Book and not enough about The Red Book of Chinese Martyrs.
The Cardinals Are Dueling Over China, but the Mandarins Dominate the Game“No agreement is better than a bad agreement,” says Zen, criticizing secretary of state Parolin. The pope is keeping silent. And Shanghai remains without its bishop, under arrest for three years
by Sandro Magister
ROME, March 25, 2015 – “Do I want to go to China? Absolutely: tomorrow! All the Church is asking for is freedom for its mission, no other condition." This is what Francis said on August 18 of last year, while he was crossing over Chinese airspace, the first time any pope had done so.
Seven months have gone by since then, and the statements of readiness for “fruitful dialogue” have multiplied. On the Vatican side, with the voices of cardinal secretary of state Pietro Parolin and of Fr. Federico Lombardi. And on the Chinese side from the mouth of the spokesmen of the foreign ministry, Hua Chunying and Hong Lei.
At the beginning of March Fr. Lombardi granted a long interview to Phoenix TV, a Hong Kong television channel close to the central government. In it, among other things, he expressed hopes for an agreement on episcopal ordinations in China similar to the one in place in Vietnam – set up by none other than Parolin when he was undersecretary for relations with states – in which the Holy See presents its candidate to the government and if this does not approve presents another, until there is agreement on both sides.
In the name of the Chinese foreign ministry, spokesman Hong Lei echoed the interview with Fr. Lombardi with soothing statements released to the English-language newspaper “Global Times,” an outlet of the communist party. These were accompanied, however, by this tap on the brakes:
“Beijing on Thursday [March 12] urged the Vatican to face the historical tradition and reality of Catholics in China, after the Vatican reportedly suggested a joint review on bishop ordination.”
In effect, the ordinations of bishops are a crucial question for the Catholic Church in China. With Mao Zedong in the 1950’s the communist authorities appropriated the appointment of bishops, creating the structures of a Church subservient to the regime, independent of Rome and potentially schismatic, as well as being in conflict with the Chinese bishops and priests faithful to the pope but not recognized by the government and therefore in a situation of permanent illegality and of dramatic vulnerability.
After the end of Maoism, the Holy See succeeded in reconciling some of the illegitimate bishops with itself. But the authorities of Beijing never abandoned the “tradition” inaugurated by Mao, which continues to have its executive and supervisory body in the so-called patriotic association of Chinese Catholics and its formal expression in a puppet episcopal conference never recognized by Rome.
Vatican efforts to reconstruct the unity and fidelity of the Chinese Church reached their peak with the publication in 2007 of a letter from Pope Benedict XVI to the Catholics of China, a document that Pope Francis has confirmed, calling it “fundamental” and “timely” and thereby accepting its guidelines:
That year Benedict XVI also set up a commission expressly dedicated to examining the case of China, made up of officials of the secretariat of state and of the congregation for the evangelization of peoples, of representatives of the Chinese bishops, of missionaries and experts. The commission met periodically and there was a prominent role on it for Hong King cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.
But the Chinese authorities continued to ordain bishops not recognized by Rome. The latest two, installed in 2011 in the dioceses of Leshan and Shantou, were excommunicated by the Holy See, which also asked the bishops who had taken part in the illicit ordinations to justify their actions, on pain of excommunication for them as well.
The following year came the most spectacular case, that of the new coadjutor bishop of the archdiocese of Shanghai, Thaddeus Ma Daqin. Ordained on July 7 of 2012 with the approval of both the Holy See and the Chinese government, he quit the patriotic association on the same day, obeying the 2007 letter of Benedict XVI, which defined membership in the association as incompatible with fidelity to the Church. And because of this he was immediately punished with house arrest, which made it impossible for him to take up the succession of the elderly archbishop of Shanghai, Aloysius Jin Luxian, who died in April of 2013.Since then the diocese of Shanghai has remained headless, with its legitimate bishop still under house arrest, bearing witness at a high price to fidelity to the universal Church.
But meanwhile the pope has changed. Benedict XVI has been succeeded by Francis. And the diplomats have regained power in the Vatican.
With the new pope, the commission for China has not been convened again. The combative approach of confrontation with the regime embodied by Cardinal Zen has been replaced with an approach of reiterated offerings of dialogue and of silence on the painful points.
To their own advantage, the proponents of this diplomatic approach attribute to themselves the cessation of the appointment of illegitimate bishops since 2012.
But on the part of Rome, the appointments of faithful bishops have also ceased. With the consequence of a growing number of dioceses deprived of leadership.
The resumption of illegitimate ordinations also continues to hang like a sword of Damocles. Last January it was the ministry of religious affairs that threatened a new batch of appointments without papal mandate in 2015.From what has leaked out, the Vatican authorities are trying to coax Beijing into an agreement on the appointment of bishops according to the model of Vietnam.
And in order to reach this goal they are willing to keep public silence on everything. Even on the most offensive prevarications of the Chinese authorities toward the Catholic Church.
Silence on the enduring impediment on the bishop of Shanghai’s exercising his office.
Silence on the disappearance of Bishop Cosma Shi Enxiang of Yixian, in Hebei, arrested on Good Friday of 2001 and imprisoned in an unknown location. Last January 30 his relatives were given the news of his death, at the age of 93, news that was afterward retracted confusedly and without explanation.
Silence on the disappearance of another bishop, James Su Zhi-min of Baoding, taken away by the police 18 years ago and never heard from again.
The official Vatican media are silent on everything that could irritate the Chinese authorities. For information on the persecution of the Church in China, the most timely and trustworthy Catholic source is the online agency “Asia News," published in Italian, English, and Chinese, founded and directed by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions.
On the other hand, beating the drum with boundless optimism for the approach currently adopted by the Vatican diplomats is the journalist and expert on China Gianni Valente, a friend of Jorge Mario Bergoglio from before his election as pope and a writer for “Fides,” the online agency of the Vatican congregation for the evangelization of peoples, as well as being a prominent contributor to the portal “Vatican Insider.”
The historical model to which Valente refers, in dealing with the question of China, is the “Ostpolitik” practiced by the Vatican with the regimes of the Soviet empire, overlooking the fact that at the time this diplomatic stance was balanced and ultimately supplanted by the different approach that had in John Paul II its victorious protagonist.
And also today the diplomatic steps underway in China do not fail to raise criticisms.The most explicit and authoritative of these come from Cardinal Zen, who gave a lively reaction last February 17 to two interviews - with “leading questions,” according to him - conducted by Valente for “Vatican Insider” with two Chinese bishops in communion with Rome:
Referring explicitly to secretary of state Parolin, Zen warned against concession: “No agreement is better than a bad agreement. We cannot, pro bono pacis, tolerate an agreement which betrays our identity.”
This was followed by another interview “steered” by Valente with a third Chinese bishop. And also the publication, by “Vatican Insider,” of a stinging “ad personam” invective against Cardinal Zen, signed by a Chinese priest and blogger, Paul Han Qing Ping:
> "Cardinal Zen, don’t you believe in miracles?"
And then again by a defense on Valente’s part of the Vietnam model in the appointment of bishops. The limitations of which were however brought to light by “Asia News,” in a letter from a Vietnamese Catholic and above all in an editorial by Fr. Cervellera on the grave risks of the Vatican’s striking a diplomatic agreement without first establishing commitments in terms of religious freedom:
Freedom for the Church, without conditions, is exactly what Pope Francis has said that he wants, in his most explicit statement on China so far, seven months ago.
After which he has said nothing more about this. On January 19, flying over China for a second time, he limited himself to saying, after justifying the lack of an audience with the Dalai Lama: “The Chinese government is considerate, and we too are considerate and do things step by step, as things are done in history.”
Not one word on China, not even in the speech that the pope had given to the diplomatic corps a week before.
The guidelines of the 2007 letter of Benedict XVI are still in place. But between Parolin and Zen, Francis seems to side with the former.
The three interviews of Gianni Valente with the three Chinese bishops criticized by Cardinal Zen:
> Joseph Wei Jingyi, Bishop of Qiqihar
> Joseph Han Zhi-hai, Bishop of Lanzhou
> Paul Xie Ting-zhe, Bishop of Urumqi
All of the previous articles on this topic:
> Focus on CHINA
In the photo, Cardinal Zen, behind the banner, demonstrates in Hong Kong for the truth on the disappearance of Bishop Cosma Shi Enxiang.