China’s Cardinal Zen Tells Saint Egidio to Butt Out

Cardinal Zen

Cardinal Zen

At the end of the first day of the major international event “Jesus our contemporary” – which began February 9th in Rome, and was covered in the previous article from www.chiesa – what stands out is an interview by Fr. Bernardo Cervellera with Cardinal Joseph Zen Zekiun, indomitable fighter for the freedom and unity of the Catholic Church in China.

But already on the eve of this public statement, the combative cardinal showed of what mettle he is made. With a biting article in “Asia News,” the agency of the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions also published in Chinese and directed by Fr. Cervellera.

For his article, Cardinal Zen wanted this subtitle: “In dialogue with the Community of Saint Egidio and with Gianni Valenti of ’30 Days’.”

It is a subtitle that says immediately what is the twofold target of the cardinal’s polemic.

Cardinal Zen charges the Community of Saint Egidio with having invited with all honors to the interreligious meeting in Munich – organized with great pomp by this community from September 11-13, 2011 – a Chinese bishop in grave disobedience with the pope for having participated on the previous July 14 in the illicit ordination of a new bishop not approved by Rome but imposed by the Chinese authorities.

As for the magazine “30 Days” and its specialist on Chinese affairs, Gianni Valente, Cardinal Zen charges them with having interviewed – without making any objections to his statements – this same bishop, “who gravely harms the unity of the Church” and who moreover “is not free to say what he thinks,” in that he is bound with a double thread to the communist regime.

The magazine “30 Days” has a large sphere of influence. It is published in six languages, and is sent free of charge to many bishops and religious superiors all over the world. It is directed by senator for life Giulio Andreotti, a former prime minister and foreign minister for numerous Italian governments. And it is written by members of Communion and Liberation.

Community of Saint Egidio and Communion and Liberation: both of these movements are known for their engagement on an international scale. The former has even earned itself the nickname “UN of Trastevere,” from the Roman neighborhood in which its headquarters are located.

But this does not mean that Vatican diplomacy always judges favorably the activism of these two parallel diplomacies.

Not at all. The Vatican officials who deal with China judge the actions relative to that country on the part of the Community of Saint Egidio and of “30 Days” as more harmful than helpful, too submissive to the policies of Beijing.

For the Community of Saint Egidio, this submissiveness to the regime has always been there, ever since it has dealt with China. For the magazine of Communion and Liberation, on the other hand, it is a novelty of recent years.

In the past, the community founded by Monsignor Luigi Giussani had always distinguished itself for its strenuous battle in defense of the Christian communities oppressed by communist domination, in the countries of the former Soviet empire.

Back then as well, the anti-diplomacy of CL was not viewed favorably by the Vatican authorities, who were instead aiming at negotiating even the slightest concessions, but at a high price, with the communist regimes. Those were the years of what was called “Ostpolitik,” the greatest strategist of which was Agostino Casaroli, first foreign minister and then secretary of state.

In the article by Cardinal Zen on “Asia News,” there is a passage of great interest. It is where he accuses the Holy See of having wanted to restore with China, in recent years, precisely the “disastrous” diplomacy of Ostpolitik.

The main proponent of this return to the past is said to have been – in Zen’s judgment – Cardinal Ivan Dias, as prefect of the Vatican congregation for the evangelization of peoples from 2006 to 2011. Dias came from Vatican diplomacy, where he had worked with Casaroli.

Now, however, at the dicastery “de propagande fide” there is a new strategist for relations with China, averse to yielding and very close to Zen, Chinese archbishop Savio Hon Taifai.

As a result, the contrast has grown sharper between the rediscovered firmness of the Holy See with regard to China and the initiatives of the Community of Saint Egidio and of “30 Days”.

Cardinal Zen clearly describes this contrast, at the conclusion of his article on “Asia News”:

“The true good of the Church in China is not in continuing to bargain with organisms that are not only foreign, but clearly hostile to the Church, but in mobilizing bishops and faithful to rid the Church of them.”

Here is a link to the complete text of his article:

> Zen: What is the true good of the Church in China

While this is the interview in “30 Days” with Chinese bishop John Baptist Suguang, against which Cardinal Zen argues:

> “The Church in China has never changed a single iota of the Apostolic Tradition”

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  • franciscan

    Great content, poorly written article.  This is a great man and I’m still not sure what the article is pointing out.