Bishop warns of Pope Francis 'betrayal' of underground Chinese Catholics

The retired bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, is warning Pope Francis not to forge an agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist government that would allow Beijing to exercise control over the underground Catholic Church.

Currently, Chinese Catholics can exercise their faith only within the confines of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), the officially recognized catholic authority in China.  The government tells Catholics where they can build churches and prevents the "official" church from speaking out against issues like abortion and birth control pills.  But millions of Chinese Catholics worship at "underground" churches, out of sight of the prying eyes of Chinese authorities.

Some Chinese Catholics believe that in order to forge an agreement with the Chinese government, Pope Francis might agree to place all Chinese Catholics under governnment control.

Christian Post:

Cardinal Zen has explained that priests and bishops in the so-called underground church have been thrown in jail for submitting to the Holy See rather than the state-overseen church. If a deal is approved between the Chinese government and the Catholic authorities in Rome, it is feared that the agreement would amount to an official recognition by the Vatican of the government-controlled Church. The deal would grant the government the power to nominate bishops, although Beijing would have to submit its nominees to the Pope for ultimate acceptance or rejection.

Cardinal Zen has expressed concern that Pope Francis may be misinformed about the true situation for Catholics in China. "We are very much worried because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China. And I can understand that the pope is really naïve. He doesn't know the Chinese communists," he told LifeSiteNews.

"Unfortunately, the people around him are not good at all. They have very wrong ideas. And I'm afraid that they may sell out our underground Church. That would be very sad," he added.

In its desire for total control of the Church, Zen said Beijing is painting a negative picture of the underground faithful as "troublemakers."

Zen ultimately fears the deal would "give too much decision power to the government," endangering Catholics in the country who do not want to submit to state oversight in their worship.

However, the current Catholic Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, has defended the new deal proposals. He has said the agreement would mean China would be put in a position where it must now recognize the Pope as the supreme head of the Church, as the deal would mean the pontiff, not the Chinese state, would have final authority on who was appointed as a bishop in the country.

Zen though, disagrees, and believes granting Bejing the power to choose nominees for Church leaders in the country would be a betrayal of those currently forced to worship in secret in China.

The Vatican must operate in two different worlds – the world of faith and the "real" world, where some governments and societies are more oppressive than others.  In fact, there are many times the Vatican must walk a tightrope between its beliefs and its desire to protect the Church in hostile environments.  The outcome is rarely satisfactory to all and is sometimes seen as caving in to godless authority.

Pope Francis is not under a great deal of pressure to reach a deal with the Chinese Communists, although underground clergy continue to be harassed and jailed for not toeing the party line.  But that may change.  Instead of loosening restrictions on state-run religions, Beijing has recently passed laws that make it harder for independent Christian churches to practice their faith.  The Chinese Communists may force Francis's hand in negotiations, at which point he may compromise on the issue of underground churches to save the rest of his flock from persecution.

The retired bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, is warning Pope Francis not to forge an agreement between the Vatican and the Chinese Communist government that would allow Beijing to exercise control over the underground Catholic Church.

Currently, Chinese Catholics can exercise their faith only within the confines of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), the officially recognized catholic authority in China.  The government tells Catholics where they can build churches and prevents the "official" church from speaking out against issues like abortion and birth control pills.  But millions of Chinese Catholics worship at "underground" churches, out of sight of the prying eyes of Chinese authorities.

Some Chinese Catholics believe that in order to forge an agreement with the Chinese government, Pope Francis might agree to place all Chinese Catholics under governnment control.

Christian Post:

Cardinal Zen has explained that priests and bishops in the so-called underground church have been thrown in jail for submitting to the Holy See rather than the state-overseen church. If a deal is approved between the Chinese government and the Catholic authorities in Rome, it is feared that the agreement would amount to an official recognition by the Vatican of the government-controlled Church. The deal would grant the government the power to nominate bishops, although Beijing would have to submit its nominees to the Pope for ultimate acceptance or rejection.

Cardinal Zen has expressed concern that Pope Francis may be misinformed about the true situation for Catholics in China. "We are very much worried because it seems that the Vatican is going to make a very bad agreement with China. And I can understand that the pope is really naïve. He doesn't know the Chinese communists," he told LifeSiteNews.

"Unfortunately, the people around him are not good at all. They have very wrong ideas. And I'm afraid that they may sell out our underground Church. That would be very sad," he added.

In its desire for total control of the Church, Zen said Beijing is painting a negative picture of the underground faithful as "troublemakers."

Zen ultimately fears the deal would "give too much decision power to the government," endangering Catholics in the country who do not want to submit to state oversight in their worship.

However, the current Catholic Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal John Tong Hon, has defended the new deal proposals. He has said the agreement would mean China would be put in a position where it must now recognize the Pope as the supreme head of the Church, as the deal would mean the pontiff, not the Chinese state, would have final authority on who was appointed as a bishop in the country.

Zen though, disagrees, and believes granting Bejing the power to choose nominees for Church leaders in the country would be a betrayal of those currently forced to worship in secret in China.

The Vatican must operate in two different worlds – the world of faith and the "real" world, where some governments and societies are more oppressive than others.  In fact, there are many times the Vatican must walk a tightrope between its beliefs and its desire to protect the Church in hostile environments.  The outcome is rarely satisfactory to all and is sometimes seen as caving in to godless authority.

Pope Francis is not under a great deal of pressure to reach a deal with the Chinese Communists, although underground clergy continue to be harassed and jailed for not toeing the party line.  But that may change.  Instead of loosening restrictions on state-run religions, Beijing has recently passed laws that make it harder for independent Christian churches to practice their faith.  The Chinese Communists may force Francis's hand in negotiations, at which point he may compromise on the issue of underground churches to save the rest of his flock from persecution.

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