Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, speaks during a press conference in Hong Kong on Sept. 26, 2018. He is among critics of the Vatican's historic accord with China on the appointment of bishops. (Photo: AFP)
The Vatican continues to make excessive compromises with communist China to renew a controversial pact on the appointment of bishops, say Catholic leaders apprehensive about last week’s rare diplomatic development.Vatican Secretary for Relations with States Archbishop Paul Gallagher met with Chinese Foreign Minister and State Counselor Wang Yi at the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany on Feb. 14. The diplomatic meeting came after a gap of 70 years.“We do not think the meeting was worthwhile because the Vatican made a great sacrifice in return for nothing,” said Father Peter, a priest in Shanxi province in northern China.He said such a diplomatic meeting does not augur well for China’s 12 million Catholics — split between the state-sanctioned church and the unofficial underground church loyal to the pope.Catholic leaders like Father Peter believe the meeting, sanctioned by Pope Francis, was part of an effort to get the provisional agreement on appointing bishops pre-approved by Beijing. It reportedly comes to an end in August. “China is facing opposition internally and externally, which has made the Communist Party restless. Winning over the Vatican is an obvious diplomatic gain,” Father Peter said.However, the Vatican “has repeatedly compromised with China. The universal Church is tight-lipped about the persecution that the Chinese Communist Party unleashed on Catholics. It also runs a parallel Catholic Church.”The agreement, whose content has not yet been publicized, virtually allows the Communist Party to choose bishops, pushing the entire Church to be governed by the communists, said Guo Liang, a Catholic in Shaanxi province.
“In the past, overseas missionaries did a lot of charity work in China, but now some clergymen only enjoy the money of the poor. They spend people’s money on expensive houses, furniture, cars, computers and mobile phones. Many of them resort to drinking and having fun.”