Card. Zen: The “slap” from Chris Patten and those of the illegitimate ordinations and Assembly for the Pope
by Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun

The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong laments the silence of the Holy See on the ordination of bishops at Chengdu and Xichang with the participation of an excommunicated bishop. Upcoming Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives a slap down for Pope. The Ostpolitik "is a failure." "In front of evil... refuse  to cooperate".


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - The episcopal ordinations of Chengdu and Xichang, with the presence of an illegitimate bishop, imposed by the police is a "slap in the face" to the Pontiff, says Cardinal Joseph Zen in his blog on  December 12. Reiterating that the Ostpolitik pursued by the Vatican to the under Card. Casaroli and the present one with China “is a failure," the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong asks the Holy See to condemn the upcoming Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives for the public.

Were those slaps not enough?

Over the past few days the word "slap" has been circulating on "". Some say that Chris Patten (the last governor of the British colony [in Hong Kong], a practicing Catholic), during his recent visit to Hong Kong, gave me a slap to the face.

The fact is that Chris Patten has spoken out against the movement of "Hong Kong independence from China", which was hoping for his support. But I have never supported this movement, indeed, at the time I did not support the impulsive actions of the students, who although attracting global attention to HK, made it impossible for the three original "Occupy Central" promoters, who had instead stated my support, to carry forward their plans.

It may be an embarrassing surprise for many that my "friend" Chris Patten had lunch with me on the last day of his visit and the lunch lasted three hours.

Others, on the same "" speak of "a slap to the face", but in a much more serious case, when they say China has slapped our Pope with the presence of an excommunicated "Bishop" at the recent episcopal ordinations [1 ]. It is sad, but true.

How could the Chinese government allow, or even encourage, the excommunicated "bishop" to participate in the episcopal ordinations? How can we believe their "good will" at the negotiating table with the Vatican? (If I'm not mistaken, the Vatican has not even felt the blow, at least not so far: December 12).

Meanwhile, I see that, for once, my friend Gianni Valente (v. 30 Nov. on the article in the Vatican Insider) has agreed with me.  Has he been awakened from his optimistic dream? In which case we would have to say that not all problems are without a silver lining. It seems, though, that he hasn’t felt the full impact of that slap just yet, he whom I know to be a friend of Pope Francis.

Announcing the next IX "General Assembly of Chinese Catholic Representatives," he reports, with obvious sense of approval, the opinion, he says, of some bishops in China: "Participation in an illegitimate ordination cannot be equated in terms of gravity to a possible participation in  a national conference 'that has nothing to do with the spirit of the Church' having been convened by the Government. " (I'm sure what they really meant was that any participation at a national cannot be compared to the gravity of have participated in an illegitimate ordination").

How could anyone utter such nonsense! Shortly before, in the same article, G.V. had said that the Assembly is "the highest body among the organisms that roll out the religious policy of the Chinese authorities to the Catholic Church." In fact it is the most formal and explicit expression of the "schismatic" nature of this poor Church!

Consequently, I wonder: how can G.V, suggest that the Holy See should passively tolerate the fact that it will take place? He says: "Recent history has confirmed that the problem is not solved by pressuring Chinese bishops (not to participate). And that they, with the confidence of the Holy See, are called with their interventions (in the Assembly) to ensure that the Assembly does not introduce provisions contrary to the sacramental nature and the great discipline of the Church ".

I cannot believe that G.V. is so naive as to really believe what he writes. He's saying, in fact, in other words, that the Vatican must let the Assembly be convened and that, in it, the bishops carry out a revolution overthrowing the present situation (because this is totally contrary to the doctrine and discipline of the Church)!

Since G.V. is speaking about recent history, the Assembly of 2010, I can speak myself with knowledge of the facts.

I do not know whether it is true that before 2010 the Holy See ever asked bishops not to go to the Assembly. But was it realistic to expect that the bishops could do something in the Assembly, even though the heroic Msgr. Li Duan failed to? In 2010 the Commission finally found it necessary to adopt a different strategy: to ask the bishops not to go to the Assembly (the communique obviously had the approval of Pope Benedict).

Did the Commission hope that all bishops would accept such a provision? Not all, but probably a good part, and this was enough for the government to once again postpone the Assembly (they had already done so more than once), this time perhaps "sine die". The communists will not risk when they are not sure to succeed.

So why was the Assembly convened? The three bishops G.V. mentioned, not only confided their difficulties to UCAN, but presented them to His Eminence in charge of affairs of the Church in China, and said Eminence responded "We understand."

The rumor quickly spread and everyone knows that it is His Eminence who commands and not the Commission. The Government of course convoked the Assembly, but fearing some surprises, as G.V narrates., they “physically brought", the representatives to the Assembly venue.

What would have happened without that "we understand"? No one can know for sure. What is certain however, it that the following story would be very different.

But the point is: why do we always ask "what will happen" and not "what should we do"? In front of something that is bad why do we always find reasons to tolerate it rather than take the courageous decision to refuse our cooperation?

Let's go back to the recent episcopal ordinations polluted by the presence of excommunicated bishops. Why did those bishops present not dare to say to that "brother" that he should leave and be ready to leave, otherwise, to keep the liturgy sacred? Where they in danger for their life? Would all of them have been arrested by the police? I do not believe so.

In 2000 Msgr. Li Duan dared to "disappear" from the illicit episcopal ordination of January 6,  and when the bishops were summoned to Beijing to sign a letter of protest against the Pope for the canonization of the Martyrs in China. This Holy Bishop has undergone punishment, yes, but was not removed, let alone arrested.

And then, between November 30 and December 2, there was time allow dissent and protest. The excuse is that perhaps it would not have changed the events? But here we are faced with an act of "demeaning of the Petrine and episcopal ministries" (Letter 2017 Pope Benedict, sec. 8)!

It is said that I push my brothers towards martyrdom, while I live in tranquility and peace. But right now I come to the aid of the words of Jesus that we hear in the liturgy of these days. He says, speaking of John the Baptist: "... go and see a reed shaken by the wind? ... The kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force "(Matthew 11: 7, 12).

Before contemplating the vision of the tender Infant Jesus let us pause a moment to contemplate the glorious Lord will be to divide the sheep from the goats. It is cruelty to encourage the brothers to settle into slavery, true charity is to encourage them to get rid of it. The Holy Spirit will give them the strength.

Ostpolitik was a failure (v. Benedict XVI in the book "The last conversations"). Let us at least try this other strategy, the Gospel, before it's too late.


Card. Joseph Zen