Well-respected Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun from Hong Kong has warned Pope Francis that his deal with the Chinese Communist Party is causing suffering to the true followers of the faith in China. He also said that Beijing might supplant the real church with its own communist-approved version, thereby altering the very nature of Catholicism.
Underground clerics are said to be under a lot of pressure from government officials to join the state-approved Catholic Church ever since the Vatican inked their deal with Beijing.
“They said officials have forced them to become open, to join the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, and to obtain a priest’s certificate with the reason that the Pope has signed the Sino-Vatican provisional agreement… Some priests have escaped, and some have disappeared because they do not know what to do and are annoyed. The agreement is undisclosed, and they do not know if what officials say is true or not,” Cardinal Zen said to UCA News.
Cardinal Zen was in Rome between October 29 and November 1 to see the pope and personally hand over a letter detailing all the suffering and atrocities the Christians of China were being subjected to. However, Zen suspects that the Pope hasn’t yet understood the gravity of the situation and that he is being deceived by those around him who are hiding the truth.
In England, a Catholic group has come out in support of Cardinal Zen, stating that it was in complete disagreement with the Vatican’s provisional agreement with the Chinese government.
“The Chinese authorities have also continued to harass, detain, or hold indefinitely and incommunicado certain leading Catholic clergy, including Bishops Guo and Shao in the last year… All this illustrates the ominous precedent for the Sino-Vatican treaty — the Concordats with European totalitarian regimes in the early 20th century. Cardinal Zen has accused the Vatican of delivering its flock into the mouths of wolves. History’s judgment may be much harsher than that,” the group said in a joint letter (Catholic Herald).
The one true church
There is also talk among many Catholics that the Vatican’s deal with the Communist Party will leave the underground Chinese Catholic community as the sole real church that is committed to the true teachings of the Bible. In contrast, by agreeing to dilute traditions and teachings in accordance with communist policies, the Vatican would sacrifice its claim of being the true representative of Christ’s teachings on earth.
“While the distinction between government-registered and unregistered churches used to be a major factor in whether or not they were persecuted, this is no longer the case. All Christians are slandered, which seems to support the widely held belief that the Communist Party is banking on a unified Chinese cultural identity to maintain its power… Spouses are sometimes forced to divorce their Christian partners, and some children are taken from their Christian parents,” according to Open Doors USA.
Chinese landlords who have leased or rented their premises to churches are reportedly being pressured by Party authorities to terminate the contracts. Churches are being raided to confiscate material that has not been approved by the communists. In August last year, the government smashed several church buildings in Shanxi Province despite the believers strongly appealing against such destruction.