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Dialogue is paramount

But Catholics must not renounce principles of faith, just to please the Beijing Government

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun
  • Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, Hong Kong
  • China
  • April 1, 2011
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Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, sent ucanews.com his latest article, in which he disagrees  with Belgian Father Jeroom Heyndrickx’s view that the Vatican’s dialogue with China should not be blocked by the illicit bishop ordination of Chengde in November 2010.

The 79-year-old cardinal suggested “there are different instances of dialogue” and “we cannot renounce the principles of our faith and our basic ecclesiastical discipline, just to please the Beijing Government.”

His full text in English is as follows:

As usual, Father Jeroom Heyndrickx makes his choices among the Popes, putting one against the other. In this case, he opposes Pope Paul VI as promoter of dialogue to Pope Pius XI who loves confrontation.

The Dialogue

I allow myself to remind Father Heyndrickx that there are different instances of dialogue. It is very different when a Pope proclaims the general principles of dialogue from when a Pope dialogues with those who are mercilessly killing his children.

In our concrete case, I ask: “Should we go after niceties of dialogue when our Holy Father has been seriously insulted?” Actually, what could be the meaning of the events at the end of November and at the beginning of December last year, if not a slap in the face of the Pope?

The dialogue is surely of paramount importance. But in our case, people have rudely slammed the door in the face of their all-too-gentle interlocutors.

Ostpolitik

Father Heyndrickx is enthusiastic of the Ostpolitik of Cardinal Casaroli in dealing with the totalitarian regimes in East Europe, which policy, he says, was strongly supported by Pope Paul VI. I don’t know how far that support went. But I know for sure, from a most authoritative source, that when John Paul II was elected Pope, he said “Enough!” with regard to that Ostpolitik.

Cardinal Casaroli and his followers thought that they had worked miracles, by pursuing a policy of compromise at any cost. But, in reality, they made peace, yes, with totalitarian Governments, but at the expense of a grievous weakening of our Church. You need only listen to some ecclesiastics from those countries. One of them told me that Cardinal Wyzinsky one day went to Rome to tell some officials in the Roman Curia to keep their hands off the affairs of the Church in Poland.

Father Heyndrickx believes that John Paul II would be on his side as an exemplary model of moderation. He has obviously forgotten that it was precisely John Paul II who allowed the proceedings for the canonization of the Chinese martyrs, knowing pretty well that this would surely upset the Beijing Government. After the fact, he did not apologize for the canonization, as the same Father Heyndrickx acknowledges.

Now let us come to the Church in China today.

The Church in China

Our Church in China is now in a disastrous situation, because during the last years some have blindly and stubbornly persued that same policy of Ostpolitik, ignoring the clear direction given by Pope Benedict in his Letter to the Church in China of 2007, and against the majority opinion of the Commission which the Pope set up to advise the Holy See in affairs of the Church in China.

Dialogue and compromise are necessary, but there must be a bottom line. We cannot renounce the principles of our faith and our basic ecclesiastical discipline, just to please the Beijing Government.

Pope Benedict has judged that the moment of clarification has come. The Commission for China was of the opinion that we have reached the bottom of compromise and that it is time to stop. But the Prefect of CEP, a clerk of the same, and Father Heyndrickx, the three of them, thought they knew better.

The Church in Poland was strong and courageous. Not so the Church in China. Our bishops needed some supply of courage. But instead they received much misplaced compassion, which pushed them deeper and deeper into the mire of slavish subjection.

Somebody told these our brothers: “We understand you”. This meant, obviously: “We understand you, even if you, under pressure, obey to the orders of the Government.” But, in this case, to obey the Government, means to betray grievously the loyalty due to the Pope and to the communion with the Universal Church!

After the ordination of Chengde and after the Eighth Assembly, some of the bishops involved apologized to their priests. Some other broke in tears. But there are others who, as Father Heyndrickx confirms, were enthusiastic of the present situation. I am afraid these people do not belong to our Church any more. It is only out of kindness, that the Pope refrains from calling that part of the Church “schismatic”, when they proclaim solemnly the will of being an independent Church and of carrying out episcopal ordinations without pontifical mandate.

Hunting for the Culprits

Father Heyndrickx finds it very convenient to put the blame on unspecified “conservative elements” of the Chinese Communist Party. The Party surely has its responsibility. But all could also see clearly that Mr. Liu Bainian was the one orchestrating everything behind the scenes, as he succeeded in putting at the head of the Patriotic Association and of the Episcopal Conference two bishops who are his obedient puppets. Even as Honorary President, Mr. Liu Bainian still goes diligently to work every day.

It looks preposterous to me that Father Hendrickx should always bring in the unofficial community, when the subject matter is the deserved punishment for those in the official community. What justifies this putting on the same level our persecuted brothers and those honoured and exalted by the Government?

Obviously I find myself among those whom Father Heyndrickx qualifies as “politicians who try to divide the Church” and those “outside China who were quicker than Rome to condemn Chinese bishops”, because I organized a prayer meeting for the Church in China in the spirit of penance and conversion. Here I want just to remind Father Heyndrickx that I explicitly meant everybody, myself included, by those in need of repentance and conversion.

The sad thing is that, while we are discussing who are the culprits, everything in the Church in China is at a standstill. The faithful in China are waiting in vain for some clarification on how the Church should be. Each day is like an eternity for those our brothers in pain. When will their cries be heeded by the Lord?

Related reports
Listen to Chinese bishops
A funny sort of victory at Chengde
Dialogue? Confrontation?

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