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Cardinal Zen: Vatican now united in approach to China

August 11, 2011
Five minutes is a short time to explain the current diplomatic impasse between Beijing and the Vatican. When I interviewed the Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong on the August 1st edition of Perspectives Daily, he concisely summarized the state of the relationship: it’s at a new beginning, but it may get worse before it gets better.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, SDB believes the new beginning results from new leadership—and a newly unified mentality—in Rome. He described the previous approach as a strategy of “compromise”. Under its former prefect, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (also known as Propaganda Fide, the Vatican body in charge of missionary efforts in non-Christian countries) attempted to work with the state-controlled Church to appoint mutually-acceptable bishops. Critics say the Holy See conceded too much, whereas China refused to reciprocate by improving religious freedom.
The failure of soft diplomacy has become evident to many, in Cardinal Zen’s estimation, including the new prefect of the Propaganda Fide, Archbishop Fernando Filoni. The Cardinal is confident that, in terms of Sino-Vatican relations, the Church is now speaking with one voice. That unified position, however, has already begun to elicit a defiant reaction. Since November, the government has ordained three bishops without the Pope’s approval, with as many as forty more illicit appointments expected.
The outspoken Cardinal has many more insights regarding the situation in China. Fortunately, he has also granted an in-depth half-hour interview to Fr. Thomas Rosica, CSB for S+L’s Witness series.
Cardinal Zen offered candid answers to Fr. Rosica’s questions, including:
-Does he believe he will live to see a democratic China that respects religious freedom?
-Does he have any lines of communication with the government in mainland China, or the state-sponsored Church?
-Should visiting clergy accept invitations from the state-sponsored Church (known as the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association)?
-Has he ever feared for his life?
Watch this new Witness episode tonight to meet one of the Church’s boldest defenders of religious freedom. Witness airs at 8:00pm & midnight ET (9:00 pm PT). The episode is also streaming on demand (above).