These days a news has caught the public’s attention: Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, has said that in case of agreement between the Chinese government and the Holy See, the Chinese Catholics should follow their conscience and then not obey to the agreement. This position, of course very strong, should of course be assessed in a concrete context, which is that of the Chinese reality. The Cardinal definitely not meant to suggest that it is good to disobey the Holy See, but rather with his stance aims to protect the Holy See from an agreement which, according to the elements of knowledge in his possession, would be deeply unfortunate. It would also be very unfortunate for all those Chinese Catholics who attempted to resist in adhering to the Patriotic Association, the body that controls the “Official Catholic Church” (which is faithful to the communist government), to remain faithful to the Pope. The Cardinal over the years has always fought like a lion to try to prevent the possibility of a disadvantageous agreement with the Chinese government and this has cost him the isolation in which he currently finds himself.
As far as I’m concerned, having already some knowledge of Chinese reality for having lived and worked in China for 7 years I can say this: we must distinguish the Chinese people who has great tradition, potential and resources from the Chinese government, which of course is following a very precise political agenda. The values that inform this agenda are antithetical to those of Catholicism and at this historic moment, with the tightening of government control over the population, an agreement probably will not meet with a favorable soil to flourish for the benefit of Chinese Catholics. It could be a clever propaganda move to buy credibility at the international level by the government. It is said that such an agreement was ready at the time of the Pope Benedict XVI, but he did not feel the sign it: I do not know if it’s true. What I do know is that the Chinese situation is actually really complex and before making agreements that have consequences for decades to come, it will be good to listen to voices like those of Cardinal Zen, to eliminate the risk of being bogged down in situations that then, at that point, will be even more complicated to resolve.