During his sermon for a Catholic priest who died mysteriously in Communist China, Cardinal Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, called on God to save the Holy See "from the brink of the precipice and not sell out the faithful Church" to the Chinese government, reported Asia News on Nov. 11. The Holy See is the church in Rome, the Vatican.
Cardinal Joseph Zen served as the sixth bishop of Hong Kong, from 2002 to 2009. He was elevated to Cardinal by Pope Benedict XVI in March 2006. Although he is retired now, Cardinal Zen often speaks out about the persecution of Catholics in China and is a strong proponent of political freedom.
In his sermon, Cardinal Zen was referring to ongoing negotiations between the Vatican and the Communist Chinese government concerning the selection of bishops. Since the Communist revolution in 1950, there have been two Catholic churches in China: the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), which is run by the government, and the real, underground Catholic Church, which is loyal to Rome, and is illegal in China.
In the real Catholic Church in China, bishops, priests, and lay people have been persecuted for 60-plus years. The bishops in the real church are selected by the Pope. Many of them have been imprisoned and tortured over the years.
The real church is in union with Rome and is loyal to the Pope. The CPA is not in union with Rome and is not loyal to the Pope.
In the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), Chinese government authorities select the bishops and monitor them, their churches, and their congregations.
As the Wall Street Journal reported last year, the CPA "oversees the 'official church' of some 70 bishops and five million adherents who answer to Beijing and toe its line. The underground church, by contrast, follows the pope, for which its 30 bishops and estimated seven million adherents face harassment, imprisonment and worse."
In the "negotiations," the Communist regime wants to nominate the priests who could be selected as bishops by the Pope. The problem is that, under such an arrangment, all -- or nearly all -- of the priests selected would be groomed by and subservient to the CPA. Catholic priests faithful to Rome and the Pope likely would never be selected.
"Rome would commit to recognize as bishops only those clerics who first win nomination from the Patriotic Association’s bishops conference," reported the Wall Street Journal. This is what concerns Cardinal Zen, the faithful in China, and other church officials throughout the world.
"Dialogue is important and necessary," said Cardinal Zen. "However, it [the Holy See] is too optimistic about the communist regime. It has depended on its diplomacy instead of faith. It does not have a bottom line to reach an agreement."
"The Holy See is ceaselessly compromising and has even arrived at the point of selling itself out to appease," said the cardinal. "This is by no means what God expects of the Church and by no means faithful to the mission that Christ gave the Apostles."
Cardinal Zen further said that in one of the diocese's in China, "they are pushing for an evil plan: to ask faithful bishops to resign in order to leave room for illicit and excommunicated bishops."
"This is a bolt out of the blue!" he said. "And it is the approach of a huge disaster for the Church."
As for the priest who died mysteriously, Cardinal Zen spoke about Fr. Wei Heping, 41, whose body was found in a river in Snanxi in 2015. Fr. Wei, as reported in Asia News, was a priest for the underground church. He had been on a trip to Liaoning Province and was expected to return home on Nov. 8, 2015.
According to the news report, the autopsy showed a "wide hemorrhagic area in the right part of the brain" but "no visible wounds on the skin." The Chinese police ruled his death a suicide. They refused to giv e a copy of the autopsy report to Fr. Wei's family.
Accoridng to the Cardinal Kung Foundation, all of the real Catholic bishops in China are "either in jail, under hosue arrest, under strict surveillance, or in hiding."
An estimated 65 million Chinese have been killed as a result of the Communist policies implmented by the government, with a majority of them dying under the reign of dictator Mao Zedong.