The European Parliament Asks the Vatican to Support Cardinal Zen

July 13, 2022

This would seem to be a kind of hoax, or typographical error, but it must be noted that the European Parliament made this request in a resolution published on July 6, 2022.

The resolution concerns the arrest of Cardinal Joseph Zen and that of the administrators of the Humanitarian Area Fund 612. The text notes the “violations of fundamental freedoms in Hong Kong,… the enforcement of the national security law on June 30, 2022, … as well as the fundamental law of Hong Kong” which came into force on July 1, 1997, when the city was handed over to China.

The recitals recall that 10,000 people have been arrested by Hong Kong authorities since the 2019 protests, of which 2,500 have been prosecuted and 1,100 convicted. There are currently 721 political prisoners in Hong Kong jails.

The resolution therefore condemns the arrest of Cardinal Zen and the co-administrators of the Humanitarian Aid Fund 612. It calls on member states of the European Union to “establish lifeboat systems for democracy activists… and facilitate the obtaining of emergency visas.”

It “urges the Vatican to fully support Cardinal Zen” and “further asks the Vatican to mobilize its diplomatic efforts and use its influence over the Chinese authorities, and to demand that all charges against Cardinal Zen be dropped.” The next part further calls on Chinese authorities “to completely repeal the National Security Law.”

Apart from the good dose of illusion – or naivety – shown by this last request, it is all the same piquant to see the European Parliament lecturing Vatican diplomacy. Especially since it is often exercised in a very discreet way, without attracting attention.

But it is especially heartbreaking to note that the European Parliament’s resolution is a reproach which appears justified – at least in part. The Vatican’s reaction – and this point has been underlined by several observers – to the arrest of Cardinal Zen, has been very mild. The former archbishop of Hong Kong probably does not appreciate this timidity.

And it is very likely that this lack of vigor was caused by the renewal of the agreement on the appointment of bishops between China and the Vatican, a temporary agreement which will come to an end next September. Pope Francis recently spoke about this renewal, saying he hopes that it would be renewed once again.

Will Cardinal Zen be sacrificed on the altar of Ostpolitik, Chinese version, by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, fervent defender of “his” agreement? The future will tell.