Pope Francis has 24 hours to do the right thing – Catholic Herald

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

Pope Francis has a golden opportunity to make amends for his treatment of Cardinal Joseph Zen, set to go on trial in Hong Kong. The trial of Cardinal Zen has now been delayed after one judge tested positive for COVID.

Pope Francis has 24 hours to do the right thing – Catholic Herald

Pope Francis has a golden opportunity to make amends for his treatment of Cardinal Joseph Zen, set to go on trial in Hong Kong. The trial of Cardinal Zen has now been delayed after one judge tested positive for COVID. It is now set for September 21 instead.

Zen – a long-standing critic of the Vatican’s accommodation with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), who was made a cardinal by Benedict XVI – was arrested under China’s national security law. He and four others now face charges of failing to properly register a now-defunct fund to help protesters.

Zen and the other defendants have pleaded not guilty, although they could be convicted as foreign agents. Their defence is expected to cite a right to association under Hong Kong’s Basic Law. Meanwhile, the Vatican has unfortunately been less than forthright in its defence of Zen.

This may be linked to Zen’s ongoing criticism of the deal the Holy See struck with the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) back in 2018. The deal was renewed once in 2020 and the Pope has expressed hope that it will be renewed once again this year.

Cardinal Parolin – who has been key to the deal – said was that he was “very saddened” by Zen’s arrest, but that it should not be read as “a disavowal” of the agreement: “The most concrete hope is that initiatives such as this one will not complicate the already complex and not simple path of dialogue.” 

Through the agreement, the Vatican agreed to cooperate in the selection of bishops of a united Catholic Church in China. The objective was a merger of the Underground Catholic Church into the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA). 

While the Vatican had the final say on appointments, it could only select from CCP-approved candidates. The result has been ongoing persecution of Chinese Catholics, such as Bishop Augustine Cui Tai, who has been in jail on and off since 2007.

Maybe the Pope and Parolin negotiated in good faith but now, having seen the truth of the situation, they should not be afraid to reassess the deal. As for being above politics, the Vatican – unencumbered by economic considerations – is ideally placed to take a stand based on moral principles.

Returning from Kazakhstan, Pope Francis – who made very accommodating comments about China and argued “there is a dialogue commission that is going well”, and Parolin “is the person right now who knows the most about China and dialogue with the Chinese” – only briefly touched on Zen.

Having said he does “not identify with” designating China as undemocratic, the Pope said of Zen “he says what he feels, and you can see that there are limitations”. Despite this, other clerics have spoken up for Zen and somewhat shamed the Pontiff.

As UCA News reported, German Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller expressed dismay over the Vatican’s silence on China’s abuses and Zen’s imminent “unfair” trial. Müller – a former prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith – made the remarks in an interview with Il Messengero. 

During a recent consistory, the German prelate said no senior Vatican official or even the Pope mentioned Zen, with “no solidarity document, no prayer initiative for him”. Müller believes the CCP deal undermines the possibility of support for Zen, warning the deal “does not serve the interests of the Holy See and the Vatican State to the ecclesial dimension and the truth”.

Cardinal Müller said the Church should be less bound to worldly logic of power, more able to intervene and, if necessary, criticise politicians who undermine human rights: “why not criticise Beijing”, he blasted, warning that – when needed – the Church should “criticise the powerful of this world”.

With a 48-hour breather, at least, the Pope now has the chance to make amends. With even the Wall Street Journal accusing him of abandoning Zen, and offering no support, how can the Pope and those around him not see that it is the right thing to do to defend Zen?

How can the Pope not also see that the CCP is not a good faith actor, and that renewing the deal without new conditions attached will only ensure continued suppression of Catholics and imprisonment of clergy? If not abandon the deal entirely, this is the minimum the Pope should now do.

Pope Francis must do the right thing and, in no uncertain terms, speak up for Cardinal Zen. He was until Wednesday to do so.

The post Pope Francis has 24 hours to do the right thing appeared first on Catholic Herald.

Leave a Reply