The following is a complete translation from the Chinese of the statement published February 5 on his blog by Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong.
Zen responds here to the Vatican reactions to this previous statement of his:
Which was indeed followed by a statement from the director of the Vatican press office, an interview with cardinal secretary of state Pietro Parolin, and intimations of an imminent accord between the Holy See and China.
by Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun
A few persons who care about me have advised me to pray more and not to talk too much. Of course it is right to pray more, because the Lord is our hope and we have confidence in the intercession of Our Lady, the Mother of God.
They have probably advised me in this way out of the fear that if I talk too much, I will be more easily attacked. But I am not afraid of this, because my words are correct and helpful. At my age I don’t care whether I gain or lose.
I want to keep talking because I have the impression that in a little while I will not be able to talk anymore. For this I ask your pardon.
1. In the reading at Mass this Sunday, Job has to endure the long night of suffering, in which he laments that he no longer sees happiness with his eyes. But Psalm 146 invites us to praise the Lord, who heals the brokenhearted. In recent days, the brothers and sisters living on the Chinese mainland have learned that the Vatican is ready to surrender to the Chinese communist party, and therefore they feel uneasy. Seeing that the illegitimate and excommunicated bishops will be legitimized, and the legitimate ones will be forced to retire, it is logical that the legitimate and clandestine bishops should be concerned about their fate. How many nights of suffering will the priests and laity endure, to think that they will have to bow down to and obey those bishops who are now illegitimate and excommunicated, but tomorrow will be legitimized by the Holy See, supported by the government. All the more so in that a disaster has already begun, without waiting for tomorrow. As of February 1, new government rules on religious activity have gone into effect. The clandestine priests of Shanghai have asked the faithful not to go to their Masses anymore, because those who persist in doing so will be arrested! But do not be afraid, because the Lord heals the brokenhearted.
2. The Holy See secretary of state has said that “we know the sufferings endured yesterday and today by the Chinese brothers and sisters.” But does this man of little faith know what true suffering is? The brothers and sisters of the Chinese mainland are not afraid of being reduced to poverty, of being put in prison, of shedding their blood: their greatest suffering is to see themselves betrayed by “family.” Parolin’s interview is full of wrong opinions (hoping that his speech is in keeping with his thoughts). But it is not worthy of a high official of the Holy See to manipulate the letter [to Chinese Catholics] of a pope, even if he is already retired, citing passage (4.7): “The solution to existing problems cannot be pursued via an ongoing conflict with the legitimate civil authorities,” concealing the fact that the letter immediately continues by saying that “at the same time, though, compliance with those authorities is not acceptable when they interfere unduly in matters regarding the faith and discipline of the Church.”
During World Youth Day in Korea, the pope told the Asian bishops that “the prerequisite of dialogue is consistency with one’s own identity.” Well-informed persons un the upper ranks of the Holy See are now saying with regret that “we are like birds in a cage, but the cage can become larger, we are asking for all the room possible.” But the real problem is not whether the cage is small or large, but who is in this cage. The clandestine believers are not in it. But now they want to force them as well to enter it, in such a way that they too may be “reconciled” with those who are already inside! Of course, in the cage are persons who find themselves trapped there, but also servile and overbearing persons who find themselves inside quite willingly. (I was the first to say that in China there is only one Church and that all believers, both of the official Church and of the clandestine, love the pope; but now I no longer dare to say this).
Since I have decided to let truth and justice prevail (everything I say starts from the principle of preserving the pope’s reputation and setting the Church’s doctrine in clear light), I have no difficulty in saying that I reported these opinions of mine on “dialogue” to Pope Francis when he received me in private audience three years ago. The pope listened to me attentively for forty minutes, without interrupting me. When I told him that, objectively speaking, the official Church of the Chinese mainland is schismatic (in that it has an autonomous administration independent of the Holy See and dependent on the government), the pope replied: “Of course!”
3. Yesterday not a few persons came to see me or telephoned me to give me some comfort, following the accusation made against me by the spokesman of the Vatican. But they misunderstood, because I do not need to be comforted. It would have been better for them to have gone to comfort that spokesman. He is the one who is a bird in a cage, forced to carry out such an embarrassing function (and he was certainly reading what had been written by others). One may recall that more than a year ago, before the 9th Congress of Representatives of the Chinese Catholic Church, he was the one who said that “the Holy See will make a judgment based on proven facts.” A year later, they are still waiting to come up with judgments.
4. Also deserving of pity is that commentator of the “South China Morning Post” who finds something every day to criticize and lampoon: he must be an expert who knows everything and could have his say on all the programs “de omnibus et aliquibus aliis.” This person has written that I love politics more than religion. I want to wake him up a bit: “Where angels fear to tread, the fools rush in.” Does he know what religion is, what faith is? He has said that I have decided to make the believers of the Chinese mainland suffer. But does he understand what the real suffering is for persons of faith? Nonetheless, the last thing he said was right: “The Vatican has to readjust its worldly diplomacy, whatever its spiritual preferences.” But they are not only preferences, they are nonnegotiable principles!
(English translation by Matthew Sherry, Ballwin, Missouri, U.S.A.)