Cardinal Joseph Zen has pleaded to the College of Cardinals to help stop the “murder of the Church in China” in a letter made public and supported by a petition.
In the letter to the 223 cardinals, the 87-year-old began by stressing that he felt the issue was not one solely about the Church in China.
“It is just that, in conscience, I believe that the problem I present here concerns not only the Church in China, but the whole Church, and we cardinals have the grave responsibility to help the Holy Father in guiding the Church,” wrote Cardinal Zen, a longtime critic of the Vatican’s rapprochement with communist-ruled China.
In his letter dated Sept. 27, 2019, the cardinal focused on a June 2019 church document, “Pastoral guidelines of the Holy See concerning the civil registration of clergy in China” which he said risks creating a schismatic Church in China.
“From my analysis of the [guidelines] it is quite clear that it encourages the faithful in China to enter a schismatic Church, (independent of the pope and under the orders of the Communist Party),” he wrote.
“On July 10, I presented my ‘dubia’ to the pope. His Holiness, on July 3, had promised to take an interest in them, but to this day I have still not heard anything,” he wrote.
The former bishop of Hong Kong went on to criticize Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s secretary of state, the main architect of the Vatican-Beijing deal signed September 2019. The agreement is reportedly on the appointment of bishops, but its details are not public.
“Cardinal Parolin says that today when we talk about the independent Church, this independence should no longer be understood as absolute, because the agreement recognizes the role of the pope in the Catholic Church,” wrote Cardinal Zen.
“First of all, I cannot believe that there is such a statement in the agreement, and I do not see it there. (By the way, why must such an agreement be secret, and why is it not granted even to me, a Chinese cardinal, to see it?),” he wrote.
“But, even more clearly, the whole reality after the signing of the agreement shows that nothing has changed,” Cardinal Zen wrote referring to situation faced by Catholics in China.
“Cardinal Parolin quotes a sentence from Pope Benedict’s letter completely out of context — indeed, diametrically opposed to the whole paragraph. This manipulation of the pope emeritus’s thought is gravely disrespectful; indeed, it is a deplorable insult to the person of such a meek pope, who is still alive,” he wrote.
“But it also disgusts me that they often declare that what they are doing is in continuity with the thought of the previous pope, while the opposite is true. I have reason to believe (and I hope one day to be able to prove with archival documents) that the agreement signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had, at the time, refused to sign.
“Your eminence, can we passively witness the murder of the Church in China by those who should protect and defend her from her enemies?” he asked.
“Begging on my knees, your brother,” Cardinal Zen signed off his letter.
Cardinal Zen, known for being outspoken on issues regarding human rights, political freedom, and religious liberty, tweeted out the letter supported by a petition on Jan. 10.
The petition said that Cardinal Zen’s letter included “devastating” insights into the deal between Beijing and the Vatican.
“The good cardinal, and faithful Catholics and Christians in China, now need our support, both moral and prayerful,” said the petition published by concerned Catholics Jan. 9.
“This petition, therefore, both supports Cardinal Zen and his quest to stop the ‘murder of the Church in China,’ as well as Chinese Catholics and Christians as they face an intensifying crackdown.”
The petition gave examples of persecutions occurring over the last year in China such as Christian churches being destroyed by authorities and new draconian rules, set to be in place in February, that require religious groups to “spread Communist Party principles.”