The New York Times has published an extended critique by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun (陳日君—Mandarin pronunciation: Chen Rijun), Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong, of the September provisional agreement between the Vatican and Beijing, whereby the Vatican agrees to recognize those Chinese bishops appointed by the political authorities (via the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association), and the political authorities in turn allow the Pope a veto over the appointment of future bishops. Zen asserts that the Pope has been fooled both by the Chinese authorities and by his own bureaucracy. The Pope is an Argentine and all of his life has seen communists as the oppressed. He does not understand that when they gain power they become the oppressors. The Pope desires that the official and underground communities in China come together again, but the consequence will be “the annihilation of the real church in China.” “If I were a cartoonist,” Zen says, “I would draw the Holy Father on his knees offering the keys of the kingdom of heaven to President Xi Jinping and saying, ‘Please recognize me as the pope.’”
On September 22, the Holy See announced it had reached a “provisional agreement” with the Chinese government on the appointment of bishops. This deal may undermine Chinese Catholics, many of whom may secularize or go Pentecostal. Or the deal may subtly undermine the Communist Party’s authority by recognizing some papal authority.