What a week and it’s only Tuesday! Lots of news to cover in the days ahead.
On Monday, November 28, 2016, Cardinal Joseph Zen, a former bishop of Hong Kong, warned that Pope Francis:
may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.
The Guardian reported that the Pope is working on an agreement whereby Chinese officials could have a hand in approving Catholic bishops.
Zen criticised the move, pointing out that it would be:
betraying Jesus Christ.
Zen made his remarks at the Salesian English School in Hong Kong, where, at age 84, he is still a teacher. He added:
Maybe the pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China. The pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.
It’s amazing that anyone the Pope’s age would not know the statistics and nature of Chinese Communists, but perhaps the Cardinal was being charitable.
Currently, Chinese Catholics are free to worship at state-approved churches. The state-controlled China Catholic Patriotic Association appoints their bishops.
However, an underground network of Catholic churches also exists, thought to attract many more Catholics than the state churches.
Why does the Vatican seek this new agreement? Zen explained:
With “fake freedom” under a proposed deal, priests could more easily preach and more churches would open, Zen predicted, but “it’s only the impression of freedom, it’s not real freedom, the people sooner or later will see the bishops are puppets of the government and not really the shepherds of the flock.”
“The official bishops are not really preaching the gospel,” Zen added “They are preaching obedience to Communist authority.”
That brings to mind the warning from Jeremiah about leading one’s flock astray. The Pope and clergy agreeing with him on this subject might have a lot to answer for one day.
Oddly, some Chinese Catholics welcome the proposed Vatican agreement, still under negotiation for the foreseeable future:
“If they could really strike a deal, not only would us Catholics be happy, but all of the Chinese people should rejoice,” said Zhao, 36, who has been a Catholic for 20 years and works at the oldest Catholic church in China, close to Tiananmen Square in Beijing. He declined to give his full name because of the sensitivity of discussing religion.
“Chinese society needs faith right now,” he added, saying a warming of ties would increase the number of Catholics, “which is a benefit to all society”.
The Guardian says that China has an estimated 10m Catholics and 90m Protestants. The New York Times gives a more conservative estimate of 60m Christians.
Protestant churches are also required to be registered with the Chinese state and operate within government rules.
Unregistered Protestant churches are actively vandalised by the state:
a recent campaign by authorities in eastern China has seen more than 1,200 crosses removed from buildings and churches demolished.
The New York Times has more on vandalism and arrests concerning the Salvation Church and the Living Stone Church, both of which are unregistered and deemed to be dangerous to the state.