In an unprecedented act that appears to be an act of surrender to China’s communist regime, the Vatican has asked legitimate Chinese bishops to step down from their post in order to make way for the installation of new, illegitimate bishops, hand-picked by the atheistic government.
The Vatican has asked Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian to retire in order to allow a state-sanctioned and excommunicated bishop to take his place while “another Vatican-appointed bishop was asked to downgrade himself as the assistant of an illicit bishop,” according to a report in AsiaNews.
Bishop Peter Zhuang Jianjian of Shantou was forced to travel to Beijing last December 2017 where an unnamed Vatican prelate (which sources speculate to have been Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, a negotiator between the Vatican and China) asked him to step aside to allow a communist-appointed bishop to take his place.
Bishop Zhuang was secretly ordained with Vatican approval in 2006. The Chinese government wants to replace Zhuang with excommunicated Bishop Huang Bingzhang, who is a member of the National People’s Congress. Huang was previously excommunicated because he was ordained without Vatican approval.
Two months prior to the meeting with the Vatican prelate, on October 26, 2017, Bishop Zhuang received a letter demanding the 88-year-old bishop to resign to give way to the excommunicated bishop, whom the Holy See is going to recognize. Bishop Zhuang at that time refused to obey and rather “carry His Cross” for being disobedient.
A Crackdown on Religion in China
The news also comes amid reports of Christian churches being demolished in China while clerics and other faithful are being jailed for their associations with churches not sanctioned by the state. More than 1,500 Catholic and Protestant churches in China’s Zhejiang province alone “have been targeted for demolition or cross removals in recent years, sources have said in a campaign against churches not coming under state control,” according to the UCANews report. “Chinese authorities are increasingly using property regulations to remove crosses and demolish churches.”
Is the Pope backing a “Fake” Church in China?
Cardinal Joseph Zen, the first Cardinal from China and a key adviser to Pope Benedict XVI regarding China-Vatican relations, denounced a Vatican agreement with the Chinese atheistic Communist government. The Cardinal indirectly accused Pope Francis of backing a “fake” church in China.
“But the whole thing is fake. They [the Vatican] are giving decisive power to the government … how can the initiative of choosing bishops be given to an atheistic government? Incredible. Incredible,” he said at that time.
For the most part, the genuine Catholic Church in China has, and continues, to operate underground, while the government runs the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, a counterfeit church of communist-approved and monitored clerics. Bishops and priests of the underground church, which have been loyal to the pope and not the communist government, have faced imprisonment for their loyalty to the successor of Peter.
Cardinal Zen: Do not follow the Pope into an agreement with Beijing
Last year, Cardinal Zen, the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong and China’s highest-ranking prelate, pleaded with the Vatican not to “sell out” China’s Catholics by striking a deal with the Communist government, which seeks nothing less than “total surrender.”
In a blog post in June, 2016, Cardinal Joseph Zen told Chinese Catholics that they could not follow the pope into an agreement with Beijing. According to La Stampa journalist Giannie Valente, who quoted that post in a disapproving piece that same month, Zen had advised the faithful in China that any agreement between the Vatican and Beijing would “most certainly have the pope’s approval,” and that “at the end of the day, one’s conscience is the ultimate criterion for judging our behaviour. So, if your conscience tells you that the content of whatever agreement goes against the principle of our faith, you should not go with it”.
He warned against the capitulation of Vatican authority to appoint bishops into the hands of an atheist government. On January 2016, Cardinal Zen said:
Do our officials in Rome know…that the so-called Episcopal Conference is not only illegitimate, but simply does not exist? What exists is an organism that is called “One Association and One Conference”, namely the Patriotic Association and the Bishops’ Conference always work together as one body, which is always chaired by government officials (there are pictures to prove it, the Government does not even try more to keep up appearances, it starkly flaunts the fact that they now manage religion!). Signing such an agreement means delivering the authority to appoint bishops into the hands of an atheist government.
A Catacomb Situation for Faithful Chinese Catholics
Cardinal Zen said then that he will “disappear” into a monastic life if an agreement is reached with China by the Vatican:
On the day that an agreement is signed with China…I disappear, I will start a monastic life to pray and do penance. I will ask the forgiveness of Pope Benedict for not being able to do what he was hoping that I could do…The innocent children were killed, the angel told Joseph to take Mary and the Child and flee to safety. But today would our diplomats advise Joseph to go and humbly beg for dialogue with Herod!?
In August, 2016, Zen made clear that he foresaw today’s events, and that, in his view, they would bring about a “catacomb situation” for faithful Chinese Catholics. In an article written personally by him and published in Asia News, he said:
We know that in China the atheist regime has always wanted to totally control the religions. Until now large groups of Catholics, both underground and in officialdom, making great sacrifices, remain faithful to the Church founded by Jesus on Peter and the Apostles. But today a specter appears in the horizon, of a statement coming right from the authority of the Church, that tells them to change course. What was declared as opposed to the doctrine and discipline of the Church will become legitimate and normal; everyone will have to submit to the Government that manages the Church; everyone will have to obey bishops who until today are illegitimate and even excommunicated. So, they have been wrong for decades these poor “confrontationists”?
My appeal is to prepare the minds for such an eventuality, which once seemed impossible, now it looks very likely. What to do? Accept to go back, as Valente says, to the catacomb situation, which is not the ordinary situation. But, when the ordinary is illegitimate and the legitimate is not allowed, there is no choice but to hold to the legitimate in an extraordinary way.∎
Mark Jacobs, Veritas Vincit