The agreement signed between the Holy See and Beijing in 2018 led to a lot of ink being spilled. The latest take, that of the apostolic nuncio in Greece who is a Chinese prelate, denounces the “blindness” of Roman diplomats.
Former Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and close to Cardinal Joseph Zen, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, Salesian Religious, has occupied the post of apostolic nuncio in Greece since 2017.
His speech on August 6, 2021, on the occasion of the twenty-eighth international meeting of the US-China Catholic Association did not go unnoticed, which is the least that can be said.
The Archbishop outlined a three stage drama of the situation that the Catholic Church in China has been living since the advent of Communist totalitarianism in 1949.
The first step, which covers the period 1949-1980, is summed up in two terms, according to him: “Resistance and Division.”
During these violent years, “many Catholic leaders were arrested, the Church was divided between a myriad of communities some clandestine, others recognized by the Chinese Communist Party (CPC),” says Msgr. Hon.
The intention of the CCP was then to “divide the people in order to control them more easily.”
At that time, the Holy See “was striving to normalize the diplomatic relationship,” with China. “The Holy See encouraged the Catholics to remain faithful, stating that an independent church cannot be the Catholic Church,” explains the current nuncio in Greece.
Under Deng Xiaoping, a new era, relatively peaceful, opened for the Catholics of the Middle Empire, summarized by the terms of “growth” and “reconciliation”: “the two divided communities had begun to adopt a conciliatory attitude towards one another,” says Abp. Hon, who adds that “the Vatican sought to establish dialogue with the regime and promote reconciliation between the underground and government-recognized communities.”
The year 2013 marks a real turning point, with the concomitant arrival of Pope Francis and Xi Jinping, on the front of the international scene. Here begins what the friend of Cardinal Zen denounces as “the blindness of the Vatican.”
From that point on “the underground Church has felt itself to be abandoned by the Holy See,” said Abp. Hon, who compares, with a certain boldness, the current situation of the Church in China, to the Covid-19 epidemic: according to him, the Agreement signed in 2018 between the Vatican and China, involving the recognition of excommunicated Chinese bishops because they are affiliated with the CCP, constitutes a first “virus.”
When in 2019, the Holy See leaves the Chinese Catholics free to register in the structures officially recognized by the communist power, the Nuncio in Greece speaks of the “mutation of the virus.”
And the archbishop concludes: “What kind of person I would like to look like in this tense play? A reed swayed by the wind? Or a man for all seasons?” Archbishop Hon asked, referring to the eponymous play, evoking the figure of the Martyr Saint Thomas More, who did not hesitate to pour out his blood by opposing King Henry VIII, in order to defend the doctrine and the Freedom of the Church.
And answer: “I prefer the latter.”
Born of pagan parents - he asked for baptism at the age of ten, and then entered the little seminary two years later - Archbishop Hon’s birth name is Tai-Fai, which in Cantonese means “great light.”