A few days after the ordinary public consistory which saw the Sacred College gather around the Roman pontiff, Cardinal Gerhard Müller opened up to the Vaticanist Franca Giansoldati, in the columns of the Messaggero, in order to draw attention to the worrying situation of Cardinal Joseph Zen, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, whose trial is scheduled for the end of September.
The former prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith says he is concerned about the “silence” of his colleagues, with regard to the personal situation of Cardinal Zen: “I hope that they will not abandon him,” said the high prelate, for whom “the consistory would have been an opportunity for all the cardinals to declare their full solidarity with Cardinal Zen.”
For Cardinal Müller, there is no question of opposing these silences for any diplomatic reason whatsoever: “I am sorry to say it, but we cannot make the interests of the Holy See and the Vatican State prevail over the ecclesial dimension and over the truth.… If necessary, the Church should also criticize the powerful of this world.”
He regrets the lack of initiative to support the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong: “Msgr. Zen is a symbol. It is for this reason that he was arrested; he has done nothing wrong. He is an authority figure, courageous and feared by the government. He is over 80 years old and we have left him alone. Not even a collective prayer proposal was made [during the consistory].”
An attitude that, in the eyes of the high German prelate, could not justify the possible fruits of the provisional agreement between the Holy See and China, which the Pope hopes to renew in the coming weeks.
“The situation of the Church in China is complex, the information that arrives here is partial and, unfortunately, far from justifying any triumphalism: the underground Church is persecuted in many regions, and finds itself confronted by bishops from the official Church more obedient to the atheistic power of Beijing than to the Pope,” judges the cardinal.
The former head of the former Holy Office believes that it is the same attitude that we find in the context of the conflict between Ukraine and Russia, a context in which Pope Francis seems to spare the master of the Kremlin.
“It is clear that the name of the representative of the Russian Federation is not spoken in public, because there are fears of the consequences that could follow for the Catholic minority there. A German priest, living in Siberia, has also explained the way it is these days: Vladimir Putin can expel all Catholics overnight, or give them a hard time. The situation is not easy.”
Of course, one could object to Msgr. Müller that if criticism is easy, art is much less so, and that it is easier to evoke the geopolitics of the Vatican in the columns of a major Roman daily, when one is oneself a retiree from the Curia.
Regretting the “little free time” between work sessions at the consistory on August 27, the High Prelate adds:
“Perhaps the cardinals were too busy praising an apostolic constitution already in force and now set in stone by law, a text that has never been submitted for consideration by the college of cardinals. I say this ironically, with a hint of bitterness. It's like they treat us like first semester students, like we need to be brainwashed, but I don't mean to stir up controversy.”