On December 3, 2019, the Taiwanese online magazine New Bloom (founded in 2014) published an interview with Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong. The interview took place in Hong Kong where Nicholas Haggerty interviewed the prelate in mid-September, “before further police escalations, including the use of live ammunition” against the demonstrators, and the siege of PolyU.”
After discussing the situation on Hong Kong Island, Nicholas Haggerty questioned Cardinal Zen about relations between the Vatican and China regarding the Agreement signed on September 22, 2018 and still kept secret. Here are extracts from the cardinal’s responses:
“I was made a bishop by John Paul II. But actually it was not his decision. It was the decision of his collaborator, Cardinal Tomko—the head of the Congregation for Evangelization at that time… Cardinal Tomko wanted to be involved, and he comes from Czechoslovakia. He knows the Communists. He has long experience in the Vatican. He was a good friend of John Paul II. He managed to work very well. There was no commission on China at the time, but he began by calling secret meetings…Tomko said to me, ‘Join the meetings. Join the meetings with the Vatican Secretary of State and Congregation for Evangelization—the two departments which care for the Church in China’...These secret meetings were very useful because Tomko could gather much information. China was open. Many people visited China, they brought messages. We could examine the situation, give advice, even made some unofficial contact with the government.”
“Unfortunately, in the Church there’s a law regarding an age limit. So at 75, Tomko had to retire. Then the successor was no good. And the successor of the successor, even worse… Crescenzio Sepe was appointed—Sepe was no good… After Sepe came Ivan Dias. Pope Benedict appointed Dias… But unfortunately, Dias was a disciple of Agostino Casaroli [Editor’s Note: A Vatican official famous for Cold War-era diplomacy with the Eastern Bloc]. So he believes in Ostpolitik.
Pietro Parolin at the time was the under-secretary. That means the chief negotiator. There was not a commission, but only a member of the secretary of state, actually the undersecretary, who went to have some unofficial contact with China.”
Benedict XVI “also set up a commission. Now, between Dias and Parolin, they just made that commission to not work at all. First, they manipulated the working of the commission. Then the commission makes no deliberations. And so, the pope only has them to listen to because our voice cannot reach him. How can you force the Pope to read the minutes—they are thick. Three days of talking.”
Thus, with regard to the Letter to the Church in mainland China, written twelve years ago by Benedict XVI [May 27, 2007], he said, “the commission did not only defend the wrong translation but defended the wrong interpretation. The wrong interpretation went around the whole of China. It’s terrible.”
“But what is happening now? Francis came. Now I’m sorry to say that I think you can agree that he has low respect for his predecessors. He is shutting down everything done by John Paul II and by Pope Benedict. And obviously they always give lip service, they always say ‘In the continuity…’ but that’s [Slaps table] an insult. An insult. Not in the continuity.”
“In the year 2010, Parolin and Dias, they agreed with the Chinese part on a draft. And so everybody started saying, ‘Oh, now an agreement is coming, it’s coming, it’s coming.’ All of a sudden, no more voice. I have no evidence, but I believe that it was Pope Benedict who said no. He could not sign that agreement. And I think the one agreement signed now must be exactly that one, which Pope Benedict refused to sign.
“I am one of the two living Chinese Cardinals and I cannot have a look at that agreement, and I’ve been three times to Rome… There are three things. A secret agreement, being so secret you can’t say anything. We don’t know what is in it. Then the legitimization of the seven excommunicated bishops. That’s incredible, simply incredible. But even more incredible is the last act: the killing of the underground [Church].”
“Now they finished their job. On the 28th of June, a document came out from the Holy See—the Holy See. Never had a document come out from the Holy See, always from a particular department, with the two signatures. This had no department specified and no signature—from the Holy See. Incredible. Incredible. Somebody doesn’t dare to take responsibility… I have a clear impression that Parolin is manipulating the Holy Father… it’s a real mystery how a man of the Church , given all his knowledge of China, of the Communists, could do such a thing as he’s doing now? The only explanation is not faith. It’s a diplomatic success. Vainglory.”
“Now this last act is simply incredible. The document says, ‘To minister openly, you need to register with the government.’ And then you have to sign. To sign something in which it says that you have to support the independent church…The document contains something against our orthodoxy and they [the bishops and priests] are encouraged to sign...When you sign, you accept to be a member of that church under the leadership of the communist party. So terrible, terrible.”
“Recently I learned that the Holy Father, on a flight back from (I don’t remember where) [this is his return from Mozambique, Madagascar, and Mauritius on September 10, 2019: Editor’s note] said, ‘Sure, I don’t want to see a schism. But I’m not afraid of a schism.’ And I’m going to tell him ‘you are encouraging a schism. You are legitimizing the schismatic church in China.’ Incredible.”