Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former bishop of Hong Kong, has criticized a potential rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing, saying it would amount to “betraying Jesus Christ”.
Any agreement where Beijing will have a hand in approving clergy would be “surrender”, the 84-year-old Zen said, according to The Guardian newspaper.
“Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China,” Zen was quoted as saying at the Salesian school in Hong Kong where he still teaches.
“The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.”
The comments by the most senior Chinese Catholic come as talk of a deal between China and Beijing has been building amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations between the two sides.
There is chatter that Pope Francis might be eyeing a diplomatic coup by resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China’s Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.
According to Zen, a perception is building that the pope is pushing a pact he may not fully understand.
“You cannot go into negotiations with the mentality ‘we want to sign an agreement at any cost’, then you are surrendering yourself, you are betraying yourself, you are betraying Jesus Christ,” the former Hong Kong bishop said.
“If you cannot get a good deal, an acceptable deal, then the Vatican should walk away and maybe try again later,” he added. “Could the church negotiate with Hitler? Could it negotiate with Stalin? No.”
Currently, the China Catholic Patriotic Association — which was established under Mao Zedong as a state-run replacement for the Catholic Church — controls the church and appoints bishops in China, without any input from the Vatican.
The Catholic Church was driven underground and its members remain marginalized, hidden and frequently persecuted in the country.
The Vatican has long been hostile to the CCPA and regarded its bishops as illegitimate.
But according to recent reports, the Vatican could soon accept a quartet of CCPA-appointed bishops as part of a diplomatic deal, Catholic Herald noted on its website.
It is this suspected deal that Cardinal Zen is raising his voice against.
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