03/03/2020, 11.56
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Card.Re against Card. Zen: There is a "profound harmony" between Benedict XVI and Francis on China

by Card. G.B. Re

The new dean of the College of Cardinals defends the Provisional Agreement. He allegedly discovered the evidence that Benedict XVI approved this agreement, signed only in September 2018. CHe also criticises Card. Zen, who uses "very serious statements that challenge the Holy Father's pastoral guidance".

Rome (AsiaNews) - There is a "profound harmony of thought" between John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis on the situation of the Church in China, claims Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re in a letter that has now become public.

As the new dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Re wrote to all of the cardinals to criticize a written intervention by Card. Joseph Zen in which he expressed very negative judgments of Vatican policy in China and towards the Provisional Agreement.

Card. Re also claims to have found evidence in the Current Archive of the Secretariat of the State that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the draft Agreement on the appointment of Bishops in China, which it was only possible to sign in 2018.

Finally, the letter defines the contents of Cardinal Zen's letter where he speaks of the "killing of the Church in China by those who should protect it and defend it from enemies" and that of an interview in which he addresses Catholics with these words: "wait for better times, return to the catacombs, communism is not eternal" as "very serious affirmations that challenge the Holy Father's pastoral guidance".

Here is the full text of Card. Re's letter translated into English by AsiaNews. Elswhere we publish Card. Zen's letter of response.

Vatican, February 26, 2020

Prot. N, 1/2020


With reference to the various public interventions of Card. Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B., and in particular to the letter of September 27, 2019, which the Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong sent to us members of the College of Cardinals, I feel obliged to share some considerations and to offer some elements which favor a serene evaluation of the complex questions regarding the Church in China.

First of all, I desire first of all to emphasize that, in their approach to the situation of the Catholic Church in China, there is a profound symphony of the thought and of the action of the last three Pontificates, which — out of respect for the truth — have favored dialogue between the two parties and not contrariety. In particular they had in mind the delicate and important question of the appointment of bishops.

Thus if St. John Paul II on the one hand favored the return to full communion of the Bishops consecrated illicitly over the years starting from l958, and at the same time desired to support the life of the "clandestine" communities that were led by " unofficial” Bishops and priests, on the other hand he promoted the idea of ​​reaching a formal agreement with the governmental authorities on the appointment of bishops, this agreement, the drafting of which took a long time, more than twenty years, was then signed in Beijing on 22 September 2018.

Cardinal Zen has affirmed several times that it would be better to have no Accord than than a ‘bad Accord’. The three last Popes did not share this position and supported and accompanied the drafting of the Accord that, at the present moment, seemed to be the only one possible.

In particular, the cardinal's statement that "the agreement signed is the same one that Pope Benedict had refused to sign at the time” is surprising. This assertion does not correspond to the truth. After familiarizing myself with the documents in question in the Current Archive of the Secretariat of State, I am able to assure your Eminences that Pope Benedict XVI had approved the draft Agreement on the appointment of Bishops in China, which was only possible to sign in 2018.

The agreement provides for the Pope’s intervention in the process of nominating Bishops in China. Staring with this point of fact, “the expression ‘independent Church’ can no longer be interpreted in an absolute manner, as ‘separation’ from the Pope, as was the case in the past.

Unfortunately, there is slowness in drawing in loco all the consequences which derive from this epochal change both on the doctrinal and on the practical level and there persist dolorous tensions and situations. It is unthinkable, on the other hand, that a partial Accord — the Accord touching, in fact, only the theme of the nomination of Bishops — changes things in almost an automatic and immediate way in the other aspects of the life of the Church.


Card. Zen, evaluating the "Pastoral Guidelines of the Holy See regarding the civil registration of the Clergy in China" of 28 June 2019, writes: "A text is signed against the faith and it is declared that the intention is to favor the good of the community, a more adequate evangelization, the responsible management of the Church's assets. This general rule is obviously against any principle of morality. If accepted, it would justify apostasy" (see" Dubia "). The "Pastoral Guidelines", on the contrary, were designed precisely to safeguard the faith in situations so complicated and difficult to put personal conscience in crisis.

The Cardinal, in his letter, also speaks of the "killing of the Church in China by those who should protect it and defend it from enemies" and, in particular, in an interview, addresses the Catholics with these words: "wait for times better, go back to the catacombs, communism is not eternal "(" New York Times ", 24 October 2018). Unfortunately, these are very serious statements that contest the same pastoral guide of the Holy Father also towards "clandestine" Catholics, despite the fact that the Pope has not failed to listen repeatedly to the Cardinal and to read his numerous missives.

Dear confrere, this suffering intervention by Card. Zen helps us to understand how difficult the path of the Church in China is and how complex the mission of the Pastors and the Holy Father is! We are, therefore, all called to unite ourselves closely to him and to pray intensely for the Holy Spirit to support him and to support the communities of the Catholic Church in China, who despite suffering for a long time demonstrate their loyalty to the Lord, on the path of reconciliation, of unity and of mission at the service of the Gospel.

Wishing you every good, I cordially greet you all

Yours affectionately,

G.B Cardinal Re


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