In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Lord Patten, a practising Catholic, accused the Vatican of operating a misguided “policy of appeasement” in dealing with “thuggish dictators”.Lord Patten accuses Vatican of secrecy and ‘self-delusion’ over China – Catholic Herald
The last British governor of Hong Kong has severely criticised Vatican policy over China, accusing Rome of unwarranted secrecy and “self-delusion” in its dealings with the Communist superpower.
Lord Patten of Barnes also hit out at what he said was the “incredibly lily-livered” treatment of Cardinal Joseph Zen, the former Bishop of Hong Kong who is presently on trial in China charged with funding pro-democracy campaigners during disturbances in 2019.
In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Lord Patten, a practising Catholic, accused the Vatican of operating a misguided “policy of appeasement” in dealing with “thuggish dictators”.
He also cast doubt on the veracity of claims made by Rome that it could retain a policy of veto over episcopal appointments in China under a secret Sino-Vatican accord signed last month. He challenged the Vatican to provide evidence to support its case.
“The easy thing to do is allow the Vatican simply to publish the agreement,” said Lord Patten, the Chancellor of Oxford University, former BBC Chairman and former Chairman of the Conservative Party.
“The Vatican could put an end to a lot of criticism if they would simply publish the deal and say what had been accomplished as a result of it so far,” he said. “But the fact of the matter is, we don’t know exactly what it is.”
He added that he was sceptical if the accord would benefit any Catholics persecuted for their faith in China.
“It would be nice to know the evidence for that having happened,” he said. “It’s all pretty unclear, pretty muddy, about what the Vatican actually got out of it … and I think it’s all pretty, well, to be blunt, unsavoury.”
The remarks of Lord Patten will carry huge weight because until now he has been seen as a close ally and collaborator of Pope Francis and the Vatican, who just a decade ago was commissioned to overhaul and unify the Holy See’s disparate communications strategy.
He said: “I’m a great supporter of most of what Pope Francis is trying to do. But I think the attitude to China and what he said recently about Ukraine are pretty unattractive.”
Pope Francis, he said, was guilty of a “cop-out” by asserting in the face of criticism that “you have to take a long-term view in China”.
Lord Patten said: “There are at least two Catholic bishops who are in prison. There are arguably others who are under house arrest. There are lots of priests who’ve been driven out of the priesthood because they won’t sign a vow of loyalty to the Communist Party — and now working as farmers or working in factories.”
He said the Vatican was particularly at fault for being “incredibly lily-livered in what it said” about Cardinal Zen.
“He’s a great, outspoken spokesman for the best sort of Christian attitude to human rights,” said Lord Patten.
“He is a great opponent and critic of Chinese Communism, which you would have thought would make the Vatican rather sympathetic towards him.
“But they’ve been so spectacularly careful in anything they’ve said about him that it’s rather distressing.”
Lord Patten noted that the Vatican had failed to offer even a public prayer for the cardinal or to mention him at the Consistory of Cardinals in Rome in August.
He also criticised the Vatican for adopting an “incredibly quiet or discreet” stance on the plight of “other Christian churches in China”, which were being persecuted as well as Uighur Muslims were being subjected to incarceration, forced re-education and sterilisations and abortions.
He said: “If they can be denounced by the UN, why aren’t they denounced by the Catholic Church? When things are wicked, when things which are done are wicked, we should call them out as wicked.”
Both Lord Patten and the BBC were in turn criticised by Austen Ivereigh, a biographer and champion of Pope Francis, who claimed it was “shocking” for the corporation to allow such remarks to be broadcast unchallenged.
“To take just one example of Lord Patten’s distorted approach – it is Cardinal Zen himself who has asked the Vatican not to criticize Beijing publicly,” said Mr Ivereigh.
The intervention of Lord Patten follows sensational claims in the media that the Chinese Communist Party has been sending billions of dollars to the Vatican since Pope Francis was elected.
According to the Church Militant website, Dr Francesco Galietti, an expert in geopolitical economics, said that $2 billion has been sent to the Vatican every year since 2013.
The exiled dissident Guo Wengui has also accused the Vatican of receiving $1.6 billion every year since 2014 in “bribes” because Beijing “wanted the Vatican to shut up about China’s religious policies”.
The Vatican has yet to respond publicly to the allegations.