Cardinal Joseph Zen from the Catholic Church of Hong Kong sent a letter to the College of Cardinals in September last year, pleading with them to denounce the agreement that the Vatican had made with the Chinese Communist Party. The letter made public recently, begs the Catholic Church not to sit idly as the Church is being “murdered” in China.
In the letter, the Cardinal criticizes two incidents involving the Church — the September 2018 agreement between Beijing and the Holy See and a document that the Vatican released in July 2019 according to which Chinese priests are given permission to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, an organization under the government’s control.
Cardinal Zen is furious that Vatican officials presented the agreement as if it fulfills the wishes of Pope Benedict XVI, the predecessor to the current Pope Francis. It “disgusts me that they often declare that what they are doing is in continuity with the thought of the previous pope, while the opposite is true. I have reason to believe (and I hope one day to be able to prove with archival documents) that the agreement signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had, at the time, refused to sign,” he says in the letter (Life Site).
Zen criticizes the July 2019 document since he believes that it encourages the faithful to join a schismatic church that is not under the control of the Pope. Details of the Sino-Vatican deal have not been made public and are kept secret by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Secretary of State of the Vatican. Cardinal Zen is a well-known advocate of taking a strong stand against the Communist Party. In fact, he has been criticized several times by Beijing.
“The communists preach equality, they preach fraternity, but they destroy the foundation of equality and brotherhood which resides in our human dignity rooted in our common origin from Our Father in Heaven. All the communist countries, to our knowledge, achieved only equal poverty for everybody. Their main exports are human beings fleeing from the communist paradise,” Zen wrote in an article last year (La Croix International).
A new report by the U.S. government warns that the persecution of Christians has increased after the Vatican signed its deal with Beijing. “Observers have described religious persecution in China over the last year to be of an intensity not seen since the Cultural Revolution… Authorities have expanded the ‘sinicization’ campaign to target not only religions perceived as ‘foreign,’ such as Islam and Christianity, but also Chinese Buddhism, Taoism, and folk religious beliefs,” the report stated (Catholic Citizens).
Communist officials are targeting the clergy, in particular, persecuting them relentlessly. An elderly priest from the Diocese of Mindong in Fujian who is suffering from cancer was harassed by authorities after he refused to join a government-affiliated organization. Even though they offered money, the priest refused.
Officials even declared that anyone taking care of the priest would be considered indulging in a criminal act. They shut down a factory run by one of his relatives. The officials cut off the electricity and water supply to the priest’s home and eventually threatened to kill him. However, the priest responded that he would rather die than join the Party-approved organization.