China: Cardinal Re’s Response to Cardinal Zen’s Dubia

Source: FSSPX News

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong,  recently sent a letter to the 223 cardinals forming the Sacred College to alert them to the "murder" going on in the Church in China, perpetrated " by the very people who should protect it. ” The letter, dated Sept. 27, 2019, was made public on Jan. 8, 2020. Cardinal Zen drew the attention of the porporati to a document emanating from the Vatican and published in June 2019, entitled “Pastoral Guidelines of the Holy See concerning the 'civil registration of the clergy in China'. (Cf. DICI n ° 392, Jan. 2020)

Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, dean of the Sacred College, took care to address an answer to Cardinal Zen’s Dubia in a letter of Feb. 26, 2020 also addressed to all cardinals - except the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong! On Feb. 29, Riccardo Cascioli revealed the content on the Italian site of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana: “an explosive letter (…), which La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana was able to consult exclusively. It was a hard, unprecedented frontal attack on 88-year-old Archbishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, fearless opponent of the [still kept] secret agreement between China and the Holy See signed in Beijing Sept. 22, 2018”. Cardinal Re’s letter is published following the article.

Riccardo Casciolo specifies that the dean of the Sacred College strives to show perfect “continuity” between Pope Francis and his predecessors on an agreement with China, affirming: “a deep harmony of thought and action of the last three pontiffs.” Cardinal Re attributes to John Paul II “the idea of ​​reaching a formal agreement with the government authorities on the appointment of bishops,” recalling that he “favored the return to full communion of bishops consecrated illegally from 1958 until now. Cardinal Zen is then found guilty of repeatedly asserting that “no agreement is better than a bad agreement.” Against all odds, the dean of the Sacred College declares that “the last three pontiffs did not share this position and supported and accompanied the drafting of the Agreement which, at the moment, seemed the only possible position.”  He goes so far as to deny that the agreement signed in September 2018 could be "the same as that which Pope Benedict XVI had, in his time, refused to sign" - as Cardinal Zen said -, claiming to have consulted the archives of the Secretary of State, and that “Benedict XVI had approved the draft agreement on the appointment of bishops in China, which could not be signed until 2018.”

The director of La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana then asks why the cited State Secretariat documents and the 2018 Secret Agreement are not made public; they would effectively attest to these declarations by Cardinal Re. Especially since the Letter to Chinese Catholics from Benedict XVI, in May 2007, goes against such declarations. Finally, “why, if Benedict XVI had already given his placet to the Accord, was it not signed ten years ago?”

In addition, “the Agreement provides for the intervention of the pope's authority in the process of appointing bishops in China. As a result, the expression “independent Church” can no longer be interpreted in an absolute way as a “separation” from the Pope, as was the case in the past, “writes Cardinal Re. He does not hesitate to underline “the consequences which result from this change of epoch both doctrinal and practical.” Riccardo Cascioli is alarmed by this: “It is a very serious assertion to speak explicitly of doctrinal changes in order to reach an agreement with the Chinese government.” Noting that this is a “new ecclesiology” that Benedict XVI, in his letter to the Chinese Catholics, declared “irreconcilable with Catholic doctrine.”

On the same day, Feb. 29, the former apostolic nuncio in the United States, Monsignor Carlo Maria Viganò wrote a letter of support for Cardinal Zen, published in Italian by the Corrispondenza Romana, translated into French by Jeanne Smits in his blog.

“You are a courageous confessor of the faith, who has all my veneration and admiration! Alas, the lie is erected in the Vatican system, the truth is completely reversed, the most perverse deception is practiced shamelessly even by those who appear above all suspicion, and who now lend themselves to complicity with the opponent. It has even been said that “Pope Benedict XVI approved the draft agreement” signed in 2018, when we all know his relentless resistance and his repeated disapproval of the conditions imposed by a persecutory and bloodthirsty regime.”

The Vatican has done everything and more to deliver the Chinese Martyr Church into the hands of the enemy: it did so by signing the Secret Pact; he did so by legitimizing excommunicated “bishops”, agents of the regime; he did so by deposing legitimate bishops; he did so by requiring faithful priests to register in the Church which is subject to the Communist dictatorship; he did it daily while remaining silent about the persecutory fury which, precisely since this untimely agreement, has experienced an incredible increase. He is now doing so through this ignoble letter to all the cardinals, seeking to accuse you, to denigrate you and to isolate you.”

Open Letter from Cardinal Zen to Cardinal Re

After having read the letter from the dean of the Sacred College through the media, Cardinal Zen published an open letter in Italian to Cardinal Re on his blog on March 1, then in Chinese and English on March 2. In this open letter, “allowing faster communication,” the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong first clarifies the position of John Paul II and Benedict XVI by quoting a response from Benedict XVI to journalist Peter Seewald in Latest Conversations (Fayard, 2016): “- Did you actively share and support the Ostpolitik of John Paul II? - We were talking about it. It was clear to us that this strategy pursued by Casaroli with very good intentions was a failure. The new line pursued by John Paul II was the fruit of his own personal experience, living under this regime. Obviously, no one could expect communism (in Europe) to collapse so soon. But anyway, instead of being conciliatory and accepting compromises, we had to resist it with force. It was the basic vision of John Paul II that I shared.” - Cardinal Zen specifies that Benedict XVI had sent him a copy of the book with the dedication “in communion of prayer and thought.”

He then asked Cardinal Re to “prove that the recently signed agreement had already been approved by Benedict XVI,” to “show him the text of the agreement, hidden until now, and the archival evidence” invoked. It remains to be explained why it was not signed at that time, concludes Cardinal Zen.

Then he resumed “the so-called change in the meaning of the word  “independence,”” which in his opinion “could only exist in the mind of the Secretary of State, and perhaps is caused by an erroneous translation of the Chinese word by the young minutante from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, now probably the only Chinese in the office.” An error to which are added ten others, he specifies, in the translation of the letter of Pope Benedict XVI from 2007.

Finally, Cardinal Zen ingenuously asks whether it is wrong to advise his brothers by saying to them: “do not criticize those who follow the guidelines of Rome. But since these guidelines give way to conscientious objection, you can quietly retreat to the catacombs and not forcibly

On March 3, Father Bernardo Cervellera, director of the Italian agency AsiaNews, also noted the questions posed by this Provisional Agreement of Sept. 22, 2018. The doubt remains nonetheless, he writes, that “the last word” of the Pope on the appointments of bishops is only an external “ blessing,” because it is not certain that the pope has the right of veto or that this right is permanent, but only temporary. It should also be explained, he continues, why there has been no more episcopal ordination in China since the signing of the Agreement. And to recall that the two episcopal ordinations in 2019 had been decided before the Agreement: he specifies that it would be a lie to affirm that they are the fruit of the Agreement.

The director of the Italian agency for Foreign Missions calls for a real development of membership in an “independent Church.” Because, he explains, the Chinese Communist Party requires bishops and priests to not “contact foreign powers, welcome foreigners, accept any delegate from foreign religious communities or institutions.” On top of this is the ban on “religious training of minors,” of any religious action outside registered places (no extreme unction in hospitals or prayers or blessings at home ...). It is worrying, he concludes, that bishops and priests can accept this without saying a word.

Finally, Fr. Cervellera stressed that the situation of the Church of China has worsened since the signing of the Agreement. “Is it possible that the Catholic Church and the Vatican are silent while so many brothers and sisters are subjected to such violence?” he worries. And to quote a personal testimony: “I asked a member of the Chinese Communist Party why they were deploying so many means to control such a small group of Catholics in China (less than 1% of the population). He replied: We are afraid of your unity.”

On March 5, Vatican News posted the Pope's video message for the month of March, Pope Francis invited the faithful to pray for the Catholics in China so that they “persevere in fidelity to the Gospel and grow in 'unity'. Vatican News says the Holy Father encourages Chinese Christians to be “committed Christians,” “good citizens,” and to “promote the gospel without proselytizing,” since the gospel manifests as a witness to life. – After watching the video Marco Tosatti comments that it was a surrealist message. “Particularly when it says that Catholics “must promote the Gospel, but without proselytism, and achieve unity.” Proselytize under one of the cruelest dictatorships there is!? Have you ever heard of the Laogai? Persecuted priests and bishops, forced to take rehabilitation courses? Whoever wrote this message, which the Pontiff read, is a friend of the Patriotic Association, the long - and short - arm of the Communist Party for the Control of Religion.”

Lettre ouverte du cardinal Zen au cardinal Re 

Après avoir pris connaissance de la lettre du doyen du Sacré Collège par les médias, le cardinal Zen publie une lettre ouverte en italien au cardinal Re sur son blogue, le 1er mars, puis en chinois et en anglais le 2 mars. Dans cette lettre ouverte, « permettant une communication plus rapide », l’évêque émérite de Hong Kong apporte en premier point une clarification de la position de Jean-Paul II et de Benoît XVI en citant une réponse de Benoît XVI au journaliste Peter Seewald dans Dernières Conversations (Fayard, 2016) : « – Avez-vous partagé et soutenu activement l’Ostpolitik de Jean-Paul II ? – Nous en parlions. Il était clair pour nous que cette stratégie poursuivie par Casaroli avec de très bonnes intentions était un échec. La nouvelle ligne poursuivie par Jean-Paul II était le fruit de sa propre expérience personnelle, vivant sous ce régime. Evidemment, personne ne pouvait s’attendre à ce que le communisme (en Europe) s’effondre si tôt. Mais de toute façon, au lieu d’être conciliant et d’accepter des compromis, il fallait y résister avec force. C’était la vision fondamentale de Jean-Paul II que je partageais. » – Le cardinal Zen précise que Benoît XVI lui avait envoyé un exemplaire du livre avec la dédicace « en communion de prière et de pensée ».  

Il demande ensuite au cardinal Re pour « prouver que l’accord récemment signé a déjà été approuvé par Benoît XVI », de lui « montrer le texte de l’accord, invisible jusqu’à présent, et les preuves d’archives » invoquées. Reste à expliquer pourquoi il n’a pas été signé à ce moment-là, conclut le cardinal Zen. 

Puis il reprend « le soi-disant changement du sens du mot “indépendance” », qui à son avis « ne pourrait exister que dans l’esprit du secrétaire d’Etat, et peut-être causé par une traduction erronée du chinois par le jeune minutante de la Congrégation pour l’évangélisation des peuples, désormais probablement le seul Chinois dans le bureau ». Erreur à laquelle s’ajoutent dix autres, précise-t-il, dans la traduction de la lettre du pape Benoît XVI de 2007. 

Enfin, le cardinal Zen demande ingénument s’il a tort de conseiller ses frères en leur disant : « ne critiquez pas ceux qui suivent les lignes directrices de Rome. Mais puisque ces directives laissent place à l’objection de conscience, vous pouvez tranquillement vous retirer dans les catacombes et ne pas résister par la force à toute injustice, de peur de subir de plus grandes pertes ». 

Le 3 mars, le P. Bernardo Cervellera, directeur de l’agence italienne AsiaNews, relève également les questions que pose cet Accord provisoire du 22 septembre 2018. Le doute n’en demeure pas moins, écrit-il, que « le dernier mot » du pape sur les nominations des évêques ne soit qu’une « bénédiction » extérieure, parce qu’il n’est pas certain que le pape ait le droit de veto ni que ce droit soit permanent, mais seulement temporaire. Il conviendrait également, poursuit-il, d’expliquer pourquoi il n’y a plus eu aucune ordination épiscopale en Chine depuis la signature de l’Accord. Et de rappeler que les deux ordinations épiscopales en 2019 avaient été décidées avant l’Accord : ce serait mentir, précise-t-il, que d’affirmer qu’elles sont le fruit de l’Accord. 

Le directeur de l’agence italienne des Missions étrangères demande une vraie mise au point de l’appartenance à une “Eglise indépendante”. Car, explique-t-il, le Parti communiste chinois exige des évêques et des prêtres qu’ils ne puissent pas « contacter de puissances étrangères, accueillir d’étrangers, accepter aucun délégué de communautés ou d’institutions religieuses étrangères ». S’y ajoute l’interdiction de « la formation religieuse des mineurs », de toute action religieuse en-dehors des lieux enregistrés (pas d’extrême-onction dans les hôpitaux ni de prières ou de bénédictions à la maison…). Il est inquiétant, conclut-il, que des évêques et des prêtres puissent accepter cela sans mot dire.  

Enfin le P. Cervellera souligne que la situation de l’Eglise de Chine a empiré depuis la signature de l’Accord. « Est-il possible que l’Eglise catholique et le Vatican se taisent pendant que tant de frères et de sœurs subissent de pareilles violences ? », s’inquiète-t-il. Et de citer un témoignage personnel : « J’ai demandé à un membre du Parti communiste chinois pourquoi ils déployaient autant de moyens pour contrôler un groupe si réduit de catholiques en Chine (moins de 1% de la population). Il m’a répondu : Nous avons peur de votre unité. »  

Le 5 mars Vatican News a mis en ligne le message-vidéo du pape pour le mois de mars, François y invite les fidèles à prier pour les catholiques de Chine afin qu’ils « persévèrent dans la fidélité à l’Evangile et grandissent dans l’unité ». Vatican News précise que le Saint-Père encourage les chrétiens chinois à être des « chrétiens engagés », de « bons citoyens » et à « promouvoir l’Evangile sans faire de prosélytisme », puisque l’Evangile se manifeste par un témoignage de vie. – Message surréaliste, commente Marco Tosatti sur son blogue, après avoir vu la vidéo. « En particulier quand il est dit que les catholiques “doivent promouvoir l’Evangile, mais sans prosélytisme, et réaliser l’unité”. Faire du prosélytisme sous l’une des dictatures les plus cruelles qui existent !? Mais avez-vous déjà entendu parler des Laogai ? Des prêtres et évêques persécutés, contraints de suivre des cours de rééducation ? Celui qui a écrit ce message que le Pontife a lu, est un ami de l’Association patriotique, le bras long – et court – du Parti communiste pour le contrôle de la religion. »