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Pope’s possible deal with China would ‘betray Christ’, says Hong Kong cardinal

11-28-2016 • The Guardian

The most senior Chinese Catholic has slammed a potential rapprochement between the Vatican and Beijing, saying it would be “betraying Jesus Christ”, amid a thaw in more than six decades of bitter relations.

Talk of a deal between the two sides has been building for months, with some saying the diplomatic coup for Pope Francis would be resolving the highly controversial issue of allowing China’s Communist government to have a hand in selecting bishops.

But Cardinal Joseph Zen, the 84-year-old former bishop of Hong Kong, has been an outspoken critic, saying any agreement where Beijing would have a hand in approving clergy would be “a surrender”.

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“Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China,” Zen said 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.”

Chinese Catholics are free to go to mass and attend government-sanctioned churches, but barred from proselytising. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association controls the church and appoints bishops, currently without any input from the Vatican.

An “underground” Catholic church exists, with some estimates saying it is larger than the official one, and its members and clergy have faced persecution by authorities.

Protestant Christians also face similar challenges, and a recent campaign by authorities in eastern China has seen more than 1,200 crosses removed from buildings and churches demolished.

Zen complained that most supporters of the deal did not truly know China, lacking first-hand experience with the state of the church under the Communists. He spent seven years frequently teaching in cities across China in the wake of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that was followed by severe tightening of freedom of expression and religion.

Reported By Donna Hancock

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