THE PERSECUTION OF CARDINAL ZEN: Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong is being tried by the Chinese Communist government for allegedly failing to register a non-profit that provided financial and legal support to protesters arrested during the 2019–20 Hong Kong demonstrations. Prosecutors made their case last week, and the trial will resume on October 26. The ninety-year-old Zen has become an international figure of resistance to the totalitarianism of the Chinese Communist Party, and a champion for democracy and religious freedom. This trial and a concurrent investigation are meant to silence him while the CCP negotiates with the Vatican over the second renewal of a secret 2018 agreement that gave the CCP control over the proposal of new bishops and legitimized seven regime-loyal bishops who had been ordained without Vatican approval. The Persecution of Cardinal Zen | Sean Nelson | First Things

VATICAN TO RE-SIGN CONTROVERSIAL AGREEMENT WITH CHINA OCTOBER 22: Amid increased controversy as a trial against a prominent Chinese cardinal continues to move forward in Hong Kong, the Vatican and China will for the second time renew their provisional agreement on the appointment of bishops. Speaking to Crux, a high-ranking Vatican official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the renewal publicly, said “the agreement with China is scheduled to be renewed on (the) 22nd of October 2022, with no changes to the terms.” The official stressed that this was not an official statement, and that a formal announcement would be made “in due time” by the Holy See Press Office. Though the terms of the agreement have never been made public, the deal, brokered in September 2018, is believed to be modeled after the Holy See’s agreement with Vietnam, allowing the Holy See to pick bishops from a selection of candidates proposed by the government. Vatican-China deal to be renewed, with no changes to terms | Crux (

PONTIFICAL ACADEMY FOR LIFE APPOINTS PRO-ABORTION ATHEIST MEMBER: Mariana Mazzucato joins a growing list of members who hold views antithetical to the Catholic Church. The Pontifical Academy for Life has appointed to its list of full members a highly influential atheist economist who supports legalized abortion and whose views on the economy have in part been praised by Pope Francis.  Mariana Mazzucato, who teaches the Economics of Innovation and Public Value at University College London and is closely linked to the World Economic Forum, was appointed on Saturday by Archbishop Vincenzo Paglia, president of the academy, and Msgr. Renzo Pegoraro, its chancellor.  A married mother of four, Mazzucato is one of 14 new ordinary members appointed to the academy. Pontifical Academy for Life Appoints Pro-Abortion Atheist Member| National Catholic Register (

VATICAN BASILICA TO SHOWCASE KOREAN PRIEST-MARTYR: A statue of Saint Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Korea’s first priest-martyr, will be installed in a niche outside Saint Peter’s Basilica commemorating the 200th birth year of the saint, said Korean Church officials. The preparation of the statue has been underway since Pope Francis accepted the proposal from Archbishop Lazzaro Heung-sik You of Daejeon, who is also the prefect of the Vatican’s Dicastery for the Clergy. “The production cost is borne jointly by the Korean diocese, and it is in progress. It is a great honor for our Korean church,” said Bishop Mathias Lee Yong-hoon, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Korea. Prominent Korean sculptor Han Jin-seop will lead the production of the statue in Carrara marble. The statue is estimated to weigh around 40 tonnes post-production, the Catholic Peace Broadcasting Corporation reported on Oct. 13. Vatican to install first statue of Korean saint Andrew Kim – UCA News

10,000 PRIESTS PARTICIPATE IN STUDY OF PRIESTHOOD: WASHINGTON (CNS) — A study of U.S. priests released Oct. 19 details clerics’ “crisis of trust” toward their bishops as well as fear that if they were falsely accused of abuse, prelates would immediately throw them “under the bus” and not help them clear their name. The study “Well-being, Trust and Policy in a Time of Crisis” by The Catholic Project, written by Brandon Vaidyanathan, Christopher Jacobi and Chelsea Rae Kelly, of The Catholic University of America, paints a portrait of a majority of priests who feel abandoned by the men they are supposed to trust at the helm of their dioceses. And while the study says priests overwhelmingly support measures to combat sex abuse and enhance child safety, the majority, 82%, also said they regularly fear being falsely accused. Were that to happen, they feel they would face a “de facto policy” of guilty until proven innocent.. Study of priests shows distrust of bishops, fear of false abuse accusations. Published Oct. 19 2022. Nation. (

VATICAN NEWS TO FEATURE REPORTS FROM MEDIA STUDENTS IN PHILIPPINES AND INDIA. Vatican News, together with the Dicastery for Culture and Education’s Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, will feature special reports prepared by media students at Catholic universities in the Philippines and India. The project aims to allow students to share inspirational stories on their faith, the Church, and communion with the universal Church globally, while providing local news under the banner: “Good Makes Headlines!” The Dicastery for Communication and the Gravissimum Educationis Foundation, under the auspices of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, have joined together for an educational project giving a voice to Catholic university students specializing in media and communication. Vatican News to feature reports from media students in Philippines and India – Vatican News




Cardinal Bo expressed his “profound concern about the situation for human rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong,” adding: “Hong Kong used to be one of Asia’s freest and most open cities. Today, it has been transformed into a police state. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled.”

Cardinal Bo has been archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, since 2003.

“To see a city that was a beacon for freedom, including religious freedom, move so radically and swiftly down a much darker and more repressive path is heart-breaking. To see a government in China break its promises made in an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, so repeatedly and blatantly, is appalling.”

“For the people of Hong Kong it is now increasingly difficult to speak out freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice must use it on their behalf, and devote our prayers and efforts to showing solidarity with and support for them, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored.”

For full text:…/




You have by now seen the news everywhere: Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested yesterday, May 11 – and later released on bail – in Hong Kong. I was lucky to get a very early heads-up and posted the news links as soon as I received it!

For me, if you have followed his life, especially in recent years, Cardinal Zen is a saint-in-waiting. In case you need to be refreshed, some of his background appears in the link to the Register story as well as the Vatican news report.

Is he perhaps a “white martyr”?

Aleteia, in a report on three types of martyrdom, explained that, “white martyrdom is typically defined as being persecuted for the faith, but never shedding any blood. It consists of living a life boldly for Christ, yet never being asked to die for it.”

Cardinal Zen would not be the only “white martyr” in today’s world!

If you are a reader of Joan’s Rome and my Facebook page, you know full well how I feel about the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with the Chinese government on the naming of bishops and the renewal of that agreement in October 2020. Since 2018, I have been mystified – as have countless others! – as to why the Vatican would sign an agreement with a country that has persecuted – and continues to do so – Christians, especially Catholics. Churches have been burned, destroyed or closed, crosses removed from churches and church buildings, statues destroyed, bishops imprisoned, priests asks to sign documents basically saying they agree with the communist government, etc., etc.

You know I’m not making this up.

Two years ago, as Hong Kong was awaiting Pope Francis to name a new bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, 88 at the time, came to Rome, hoping to meet Pope Francis to plead with him to give Hong Kong a true shepherd for the Hong Kong flock.

That papal audience was not granted. No explanation. No reason. Silence.

For full story: Cardinal Zen Appeals to the Pope: Please Send a Faithful Shepherd to Hong Kong| National Catholic Register (

I have had this photo on my laptop since the cardinal’s 2020 visit to Rome, and it always brings tears to my eyes!

Now, I ask you to please set aside 11 minutes for a riveting, extremely informational commentary on Cardinal Zen, the Vatican and China by Andrew Bolt of Sky News Australia. You may recall a few years back that Bolt was one of the most vocal defendants of Cardinal George Pell when he was in prison in Australia. Bolt, along with credible guests, made excellent legal points every time he dedicated a segment to the Pell case. He does the same here with Ed Condon of The Pillar: (9) Cardinal Joseph Zen’s arrest is ‘very serious’ and ‘not surprising’ – YouTube

Following is a Vatican news report on Cardinal Zen’s arrest:


Cardinal Joseph Zen was detained in Hong Kong on Wednesday by the police force set up to oversee national security, and charged with “collusion with foreign forces” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The director of the Vatican Press Office says the Holy See is closely following developments in the situation.

By Salvatore Cernuzio (vaticannews)

Ninety-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was the bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, was arrested on Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities.

The cardinal has reportedly been released on bail, according to reports circulated via social media by local journalists who also posted photos of Cardinal Zen outside the Wan Chai police station.

As he left the police station around 11 PM Hong Kong time, the Cardinal reportedly got immediately into a car, without offering any comments.

Arrest and charges

The Cardinal was detained on Wednesday evening by the police section set up to monitor China’s national security.

According to local sources, he is currently being held at a police station for questioning. The cardinal is charged with “collusion with foreign forces,” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a fund that supported pro-democracy protesters in paying for the legal and medical expenses they faced.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, in response to journalists’ questions on Thursday afternoon.

Three other arrests

Cardinal Zen was one of the trustees of the organisation, established in 2019 and dissolved in October last year.

In addition to the cardinal, authorities also arrested other promoters of the fund, including well-known lawyer Margaret Ng, a former opposition MP; academic Hui Po-keung; and singer-songwriter Denise Ho. Their arrests were confirmed by Hong Kong legal sources.


Local media reported the arrest, saying that the law enforcement investigation focuses on alleged “collusion” by the 612 Fund with “foreign forces,” in violation of the national security law imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

The charge leveled against those arrested is one of four offences under the city’s National Security Act, designed to quash pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The new law has been internationally condemned. The other offences listed in the act – subversion, secession and terrorism – can carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.

Already in recent months, several Hong Kong media outlets have accused Cardinal Zen of inciting students in 2019 to revolt against a series of government measures. In the past, Cardinal Zen has also criticized the Chinese Communist Party for allegedly persecuting religious communities.



Things are going rapidly downhill in Hong Kong from the point of view of freedoms of any kind, including obviously freedom of religion. The title THE DEATH OF HONG KONG? in the post below is mine but the text and second title are from Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. The current bishop is Cardinal John Tong as Hong Kong awaits the naming of his successor.

Please pray for their Eminences and for the Catholic faithful in China.

When Cardinal Zen refers to “the midnight celebrations of 1st July twenty-three years ago,” he is referring to the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, commonly known as the handover of Hong Kong that occurred at midnight at the start of July 1st, 1997.

In a nutshell: Hong Kong was a former British colony. An agreement made in 1898 between the British and Chinese gave Britain 99 more years of rule over this colony leading to what in 1997, in the handover, would be known as “One country, Two Systems” wherein China pledged to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system.


From Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong:

The Third of July, Today and One Year Ago
發佈日期: 2020 年 07 月 06 日,作者: oldyosef

What are people entertaining in their memory at this moment? Some may be going back to but others may remember demonstrations of a completely different kind (similar radically opposed reactions are taking place now at the passing of the National Security Law).

Some may remember with nostalgia the rally that took place on 1st July last year: Was it perhaps the last one in the history of Hong Kong? Was that peaceful, rational, non-violent resistance a failure? Some are asking themselves: what have we achieved with the Anti-Article 23 resistance, with the “Occupy Central” movement, and with the cooperation between “Peaceful Resistance” and “Aggressive Resistance” fighting the extradition law and police brutality?

Some say the National Security Law is here, what can we do?

What I myself have been remembering all this time, is what happened to me last year on 3rd July in Rome.

On 28th June last year a document (Bulletin No. 554) was issued by the Holy See: “Pastoral guidance for the civil registration of clergy in China” (Italian, English and Chinese) (JFL: here’s the English:

It’s absolutely not normal that a document be issued by the Holy See without the specification of the particular Department and without the signature of the responsible authority. I questioned the then Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization, Cardinal Filoni: “Did you refuse to sign the document?” He answered: “Nobody asked me to sign.” I questioned the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “Had you ever seen the document before it was issued?” The answer was: “Now everything about China is exclusively in the hands of the Secretary of State.”

Since the document appeared to me to be very wrong, I took a flight to Rome the next day. In the morning of 30th June, I delivered a letter to Santa Marta, asking the Holy Father to be present, in one of the following days, at a dialogue between me and Cardinal Parolin, the obvious author of the document.

On the 1st of July, receiving no answer, I sent another letter with my “dubia” about the document, which I judged to be absolutely against the doctrine of the Church, because it encourages people to be part of a schismatic Church.

On 2nd July I was given the answer from the Pope: “You just talk to Parolin”. I said to the carrier of the answer: “It would be completely useless; so, please, tell the Holy Father I’m going back empty-handed”.

On 3rd July, the Holy Father invited me to supper with the presence of Parolin. I thought I was having a chance.

The supper was very simple during which I talked about the situation of Hong Kong. Parolin didn’t say a word. At the end I said, “May we talk about the document?” The answer from the Holy Father was: “I will look into the matter”. Then he showed me off to the door. That answer was the only reward of my long journey? Not exactly.

During the supper I noticed in the Holy Father much affection for me, but also some embarrassment. I understood the supper was a plan of Parolin, who wanted to tell me: “The Holy Father has much affection for you, but he listens to me, not to you; and I refuse to talk with you about the ‘Pastoral Guidelines’ in His presence. That is the end of it.  Go home and don’t come any more.” So, I did not come back empty-handed. I had a chance to see with my eyes that Parolin is manipulating the Holy Father.

Receiving no word from the Holy Father, when I sent my book “FOR LOVE OF MY PEOPLE, I WILL NOT KEEP SILENT” to all the Cardinals at the end of September, I enclosed a letter asking them to take that matter at heart.  I received a few answers showing compassion and promising prayers. Regrettably, the new Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Re wrote a letter to all Cardinals criticizing my letter. Obviously, Parolin forced that on him. I answered him immediately (read my blog of 1st March) with a supplement later (10th March).

It’s now a whole year since my visit to Pope Francis, but still no word from him. I am not sure whether my letters can reach him, so I put now on my blog what I want to say, hoping that he may get the chance to read it through somebody.

During the last two years, the Holy See did three things that damaged our Church in China:

1) A secret agreement with Chinese government on the appointment of bishops

The peculiarity of this agreement is its secrecy. It’s not even given to me to see it. Strictly speaking we couldn’t say anything either pro or against it.  But one thing we know is that it is about the appointment of bishops.  Pope Francis said that he had the last word in the matter, but I cannot be sure of that unless I can see the Chinese version of the document. In fact, I doubt whether there could be found such a clear statement that the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church has the supreme power of these appointments.

Now, even before the signing of the agreement, there was a non-written compromise by choosing a candidate acceptable to both sides, that’s why many bishops had a double approval.  The papal bulla could not be read during the ordination ceremony, but before the ceremony, in the sacristy; it used to be read to the bishops and the priests present.


(ALSO this from AsiaNews: Hong Kong, security law: bookstores pull ‘pro-democracy’ texts:,-security-law:-bookstores-pull-‘pro-democracy’-texts-50510.html)


Depending on where you are in your day – just starting it at work or ending it at home – you will need either a double espresso or a large glass of Cabernet to digest the news that follows.

I was devastated a week ago when I read the Asia News report that bishops in the underground Church in China, loyal to Rome, had been asked to step aside to make room for bishops appointed by the Chinese government. That couldn’t be! Why ever would the Vatican take such a step, if it did?

The confirmation came today via Cardinal Joseph Zen, emeritus of Hong King, who wrote a lengthy report on his Facebook page, and that was picked up by Asia News: See below for that entire report by the cardinal.

Why is this all so important to me? What is the background in Catholic Church-China relations? Continue reading…


For years I have followed news of the Church in those regions of the world where it was (is) being persecuted. In the late 70s and the 80s, my attention turned to Eastern Europe and the communist countries. I was in Hungary in 1983 as the guest of a bishop and wrote a long series of stories for the National Catholic Register about the Catholic Church in this country where about 60% of the populace professed to be Catholic.

At the time, the best place, if you will, to be a Catholic was Poland, the worst place was (then) Czechoslovakia. Hungary was somewhere in the middle of those poles.

In ensuing years I focussed on the Middle East and, in ways large and small, on China and even Vietnam, which I visited in 2013. In fact, as I write, I have an invitation to return to Vietnam next month, and have not been able to finalize that, although I cherish the idea of going back. I felt my 2013 trip had some unfinished business – maybe I can have a miracle happen.

I have been to both mainland China and to Taiwan. I was in Beijing in 1995 with the Holy See delegation for the United Nations international conference on women. The delegation spent almost three weeks in Beijing, taking off only a few hours in that time to visit the city as tourists.

Three photo ID badges were issued to attendees, carrying only in color: one color for official delegates, a second color for NGOs and the third was for the media. We wore these every waking moment of our day.

Two things about our time in Beijing – about being a Catholic in Beijing – that
I’ll never forget:

We each had our own room in the hotel, of course, but the entire delegation had a big suite where we’d conduct our business, and the first business of the day was always Mass at 7 am. We left the door slightly ajar as we knew that Chinese police officials were watching our every move and listening to our every word from the corridor outside the suite – we wanted to show them we had nothing to hide. Naturally, however, at any other moment outside of a U.N conference, Mass in a hotel room could have invited enormous negative consequences!

Theoretically, per hotel policy, we were not to have computers in our rooms, Not only did I have a computer but I was to be the go-between for messages from the Vatican Secretariat of State and our delegation so I also had a printer in my room.

I know my room was visited by the police as I stole an idea from police movies. I actually took a piece of hair, licked both ends and put it over my closed door when I left the room to go to our office suite. It was gone when I came back!

Second thing: We were told we could visit the cathedral in Beijing where Jesuit Fr. Matteo Ricci was buried but it was suggested we go two or three at a time, but not the entire delegation at one time, lest this look like a “statement” from the Pope, the Vatican or the Catholic Church. A wise idea – why invite trouble?

There is a lot more I’d like to say now about China and a lot as well about my 12-day visit to Taiwan in 2001 but time is short before I have another appointment.

My main reason for dedicating this column today to China – and not to all the amazing news from the weekend (the papal visit to the church for Ukrainian Greek Catholics, Francis’ Mass yesterday at St. Mary Major before the restored Marian icon Salus populi romani and his plea at the Angelus for the people of Afghanistan as they once again undergo a massive terrorist carnage, a new papal document today, etc.) – is because of the extremely unsettling news coming from China via Cardinal Joseph Zen and AsiaNews.

First, here is a link to the story several days ago from Asia News that suggested the unthinkable: that the Vatican was asking legitimately ordained bishops in China from the so-called “underground Church,” loyal to Rome to step aside to make room for bishops appointed by the Chinese government!

And here’s the torpedo of confirmation that arrived today via Cardinal Zen who posted this on his Facebook page which was brought to our attention by AsiaNews and is now the headline heard around the world:


The bishop emeritus of Hong Kong confirms the information published in recent days by AsiaNews and reveals details of his conversation with Pope Francis on these topics: “Do not create another Mindszenty case”, the primate of Hungary whom the Vatican forced to leave the country, appointing a successor in Budapest, at the will of the communist government of the time.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Below we publish the article that Card. Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, posted today on his blog, regarding the events reported by AsiaNews where a Vatican prelate asked the bishops of Shantou and Mindong, underground and recognized by the Holy See, to step down to leave their place to two illegitimate and excommunicated bishops.

Monday, 29 January, 2018
Dear Friends in the Media,
Since AsiaNews has revealed some recent facts in the Church in mainland China, of legitimate bishops being asked by the “Holy See” to resign and make place for illegitimate, even explicitly excommunicated, “bishops”, many different versions of the facts and interpretations are creating confusion among the people. Many, knowing of my recent trip to Rome, are asking me for some clarification.

Back in October, when Bishop Zhuang received the first communication from the Holy See and asked me for help, I send someone to bring his letter to the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples with, enclosed, a copy for the Holy Father. I don’t know if that enclosed copy reached the desk of the Holy Father. Fortunately, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai Fai was still in Rome and could meet the Pope in a farewell visit. In that occasion, he brought the two cases of Shantou and Mindong to the knowledge of the Holy Father. The Holy Father was surprised and promised to look into the matter.

Given the words of the Holy Father to Archbishop Savio Hon, the new facts in December were all the more a shocking surprise to me.When the old distressed Bishop Zhuang asked me to bring to the Holy Father his answer to the message conveyed to him by the “Vatican Delegation” in Beijing, I simply could not say “No”. But what could I do to make sure that his letter reach the Holy Father, while not even I can be sure that my own many letters did reach him.

To make sure that our voice reached the Holy Father, I took the sudden decision of going to Rome. I left Hong Kong the night of 9th January, arriving in Rome the early morning of 10th January, just in time (actually, a bit late) to join the Wednesday Public Audience. At the end of the audience, we Cardinals and Bishops are admitted to the “bacia mano” and I had the chance to put into the hands of the Holy Father the envelop, saying that I was coming to Rome for the only purpose of bringing to him a letter of Bishop Zhuang, hoping he can find time to read it (in the envelop there was the original letter of the Bishop in Chinese with my translation into Italian and a letter of mine).

For obvious reasons, I hoped my appearance at the audience would not be too much noticed, but my late arrival in the hall made it particularly noticeable. Anyway, now everybody can see the whole proceeding from the Vatican TV (by the way, the audience was held in Paul VI Hall, not in St. Peter’s Square and I was a little late to the audience, but did not have to “wait in a queue, in a cold weather”, as some media erroneously reported).

When in Rome, I met Fr. Bernard Cervellera of AsiaNews. We exchanged our information, but I told him not to write anything. He complied. Now that someone else broke the news, I can agree to confirm it. Yes, as far as I know, things happened just as they are related in AsiaNews (the AsiaNews report “believes” that the Bishop leading the Vatican Delegation was Msgr. Celli. I do not know in what official capacity he was there, but it is most likely that he was the one there in Beijing).

In this crucial moment and given the confusion in the media, I, knowing directly the situation of Shantou and indirectly that of Mindong, feel duty-bound to share my knowledge of the facts, so that the people sincerely concerned with the good of the Church may know the truth to which they are entitled. I am well aware that in doing so I may talk about things which, technically, are qualified as “confidential”. But my conscience tells me that in this case the “right to truth” should override any such “duty of confidentiality”.

With such conviction, I am going to share with you also the following:
In the afternoon of that day, 10th January, I received a phone-call from Santa Marta telling me that the Holy Father would receive me in private audience in the evening of Friday 12th January (though the report appeared only on 14th January in the Holy See bulletin). That was the last day of my 85 years of life, what a gift from Heaven! (Note that it was the vigil of the Holy Father’s departure for Chile and Peru, so the Holy Father must have been very busy).(JFL: The cardinal turned 86 on January 13)

On that evening the conversation lasted about half an hour. I was rather disorderly in my talking, but I think I succeeded to convey to the Holy Father the worries of his faithful children in China.

The most important question I put to the Holy Father (which was also in the letter) was whether he had had time “to look into the matter” (as he promised Archbishop Savio Hon). In spite of the danger of being accused of breach of confidentiality, I decide to tell you what His Holiness said: “Yes, I told them (his collaborators in the Holy See) not to create another Mindszenty case”! I was there in the presence of the Holy Father representing my suffering brothers in China. His words should be rightly understood as of consolation and encouragement more for them than for me.

I think it was most meaningful and appropriate for the Holy Father to make this historical reference to Card. Josef Mindszenty, one of the heroes of our faith. (Card. Josef Mindszenty was the Archbishop of Budapest, Cardinal Primate of Hungary under Communist persecution. He suffered much in several years in prison. During the short-lived revolution of 1956, he was freed from prison by the insurgents and, before the Red Army crashed the revolution, took refuge in the American Embassy. Under the pressure of the Government he was ordered by the Holy See to leave his country and immediately a successor was named to the likings of the Communist Government).

With this revelation, I hope I have satisfied the legitimate “right to know” of the media and of my brothers in China.

The important thing for us now is to pray for the Holy Father, very fittingly by singing the traditional song “Oremus”: Oremus pro Pontifice nostro Francisco, Dominus conservet eum et vivificet eum et beatum faciat eum in terra et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.
Some explanations may still be in order.
1. Please, notice that the problem is not the resignation of the legitimate Bishops, but the request to make place for the illegitimate and even excommunicated ones. Many old underground Bishops, though the retirement age law has never been enforced in China, have insistently asked for a successor, but have never received any answer from the Holy See. Some others, who have a successor already named, may be even already in possession of the Bulla signed by the Holy Father, were ordered not to proceed with the ordination for fear of offending the Government.
2. I have talked mainly of the two cases of Shantou and Mindong. I do not have any other information except the copy of a letter written by an outstanding Catholic lady, a retired University professor well-acquainted with affairs of the Church in China, in which she warns Msgr. Celli against pushing for the legitimization of “bishop” Lei Shi Ying in Sichuan.
3. I acknowledge myself as a pessimist regarding the present situation of the Church in China, but my pessimism has a foundation in my long direct experience of the Church in China. From 1989 to 1996 I used to spend six months a year teaching in the various Seminaries of the official Catholic community. I had direct experience of the slavery and humiliation to which those our brother Bishops are subjected.
And from the recent information, there is no reason to change that pessimistic view. The Communist Government is making new harsher regulations limiting religious freedom. They are now strictly enforcing regulations which up to now were practically only on paper (from the 1st of February 2018 attendance to Mass in the underground will no longer be tolerated).
4. Some say that all the efforts to reach an agreement is to avoid the ecclesial schism. How ridiculous! The schism is there, in the Independent Church! The Popes avoided using the word “schism” because they knew that many in the official Catholic community were there not by their own free will, but under heavy pressure. The proposed “unification” would force everybody into that community. The Vatican would be giving the blessing on the new strengthened schismatic Church, taking away the bad conscience from all those who are already willing renegades and those others who would readily join them.
5. Is it not good to try to find mutual ground to bridge the decades-long divide between the Vatican and China? But can there be anything really “mutual” with a totalitarian regime? Either you surrender or you accept persecution, but remaining faithful to yourself (can you imagine an agreement between St. Joseph and King Herod?)
6. So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all what they are doing in recent years and months.
7. Some expert on the Catholic Church in China is saying that it is not logical to suppose a harsher religious policy from Xi Jinping. However, we are not talking about logical thinking, but the obvious and crude reality.
8. Am I the major obstacle in the process of reaching a deal between the Vatican and China? If that is a bad deal, I would be more than happy to be the obstacle.


Since diplomatic ties between the Holy See and China were broken off in 1951, attempts have been made to close the breach between the two. In recent years, however, with both the disappearance in China of a number of Catholic priests and bishops, some of whom were taken for questioning and released, while others are still to be heard from, and the illegitimate ordination in China of bishops without a papal mandate, relations have soured.

In any discussion between the Catholic Church and China, the nomination of bishops and religious freedom in mainland China are always the issued at the top of the agenda.

For years, the Holy See has always asked that Catholics – and others – be allowed to freely profess their faith, free of constraint or interference from the Chinese government and that it be allowed to name and ordain its bishops, without government approval or interference.

China asks that the Holy See break off diplomatic relations with Taiwan – which it considers part of the Peoples’ Republic of China and a renegade province (whereas Taiwan calls itself the Republic of China). It also asks the Holy See not to interfere in China’s internal affairs – which, for China, includes the naming of bishops.

The Vatican has suggested that, when all conditions were right (religious freedom in China, the Catholic Church could pursue its mission unfettered, name its own bishops and run its own affairs), it would break off relations with Taiwan and set up an embassy in Beijing. It will not, however, compromise on the naming of bishops.

On March 24, 2006, there was a consistory to create new cardinals, including Joseph Zen, archbishop of Hong Kong. Fr. Dominic Chan, vicar general of Hong Kong, was in Rome, and he greeted Pope Benedict several days after the consistory. He reported that he told the Pope the diocese supports Cardinal Zen and all the work he does for the Church in China and to promote religious freedom.

Fr. Chan asked the Pope if he would visit Hong Kong and China, to which Benedict XVI replied, “a visit would be good” but “it depends on God’s will.”

The day of the consistory Cardinal Zen introduced Hong Kong newspaper owner, Jimmy Lai to the Pope who asked him to come to China and “to bring love and democracy.” The cardinal also presented another layman as a Hong Kong legislator fighting for democracy, to which the Pope allegedly told him, “Continue.”

No Pope has ever been to mainland China. For such a trip to occur, many obstacles have to be cleared: Popes usually undertakes trips to countries with whom they have diplomatic relations: the Holy See and mainland China – the Peoples’ Republic of China – do not have such ties. In addition, they must be invited by both the national government and the country’s Episcopal conference.

Since that invitation in March 2006 there have been numerous
illegitimate ordinations in China carried out by the government-approved Patriotric Catholic Church. The Vatican almost every time released a statement, deploring the illegitimate ordination, saying it “hopes such incidents will not be repeated in the future.”

The Vatican explains that “an ordination conferred without the pontifical mandate, that is, without respecting the discipline of the Catholic Church concerning the appointment of bishops” is illegitimate. In fact, Canon 377, Para 1 of the Code of Canon Law says: “The Supreme Pontiff freely appoints bishops or confirms those who have been legitimately elected.”

One Vatican statement about an illegitimate ordination noted that this “was just the latest of the illegitimate episcopal ordinations which have been distressing the Catholic Church in China for many decades, creating divisions in diocesan communities and tormenting the consciences of many ecclesiastics and faithful. This extremely grave series of acts … undermines the fundamental principles of (the Church’s) hierarchical structure.”

In June 2006 a Vatican delegation led by Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli visited China. Though he used to work for the Secretariat of State, was for a while the secretary of APSA, the Administration of the Patrimony of the Apostolic See, and then for several years headed the late Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Archbishop Celli has been for years an expert on relations between Rome and Beijing and has visited China many times. He has also been to Vietnam on missions for the Holy See.

In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI wrote a “Letter to the Bishops, Priests, Consecrated persons and Lay faithful of the Catholic Church in the People’s Republic of China.” It began:


1. Dear Brother Bishops, dear priests, consecrated persons and all the faithful of the Catholic Church in China: “We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, because we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love which you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven … We have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, to lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. May you be strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy” (Col 1:3-5, 9-11).

These words of the Apostle Paul are highly appropriate for expressing the sentiments that I, as the Successor of Peter and universal Pastor of the Church, feel towards you. You know well how much you are present in my heart and in my daily prayer and how deep is the relationship of communion that unites us spiritually.

Purpose of the Letter

2. I wish, therefore, to convey to all of you the expression of my fraternal closeness. With intense joy I acknowledge your faithfulness to Christ the Lord and to the Church, a faithfulness that you have manifested “sometimes at the price of grave sufferings”[1], since “it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil 1:29). Nevertheless, some important aspects of the ecclesial life of your country give cause for concern.

Without claiming to deal with every detail of the complex matters well known to you, I wish through this letter to offer some guidelines concerning the life of the Church and the task of evangelization in China, in order to help you discover what the Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, “the key, the centre and the purpose of the whole of human history” [2] wants from you.

The Holy Father ended his Letter: “I pray that you, dear Pastors of the Catholic Church which is in China, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful, may rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials…”
Given in Rome, at Saint Peter’s, on 27 May, the Solemnity of Pentecost, in the year 2007, the third of my Pontificate.

For complete text, click here:

To understand the situation in China even today vis-a-vis the Catholic
Church, you will want to read Benedict’s entire letter


POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: All are called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity.

Today, April 25, is Toot Your Own Horn Day! (If it isn’t, it should be!) – so that’s what I’ll do!

I leave Thursday for the U.S. for what promises to be an amazing two weeks! I’ll be very briefly in Fox Point, Wisconsin for the First Communion of my great-nephew Emory, after which I fly to New York on May 2 where I will spend a week doing book promotions and signings, a bit of television and some radio (for starters). I’ll fly to Washington, D.C. on May 9, doing pretty much of the same, but including some very special events!

I have a feeling this is not the first time you’ve heard of my book – but just in case…!  Here are some reviews of my book, “A Holy Year in Rome, The Complete Pilgrim’s Guide to the Jubilee of Mercy” (I may have posted the Vatican Radio story previously). The second review was written by Monica Knudsen, one of my former French students with whom I had a reunion in Rome (and about which I wrote in early March)!

As I travel, I’ll keep you posted daily on events, offer some photos, etc – will do what I can to keep you informed about any breaking news in Rome. In particular, for those of you who live in or near NCY and DC, I’ll let you know where we can meet – and I’ll sign your book!

And now some news from Pope Francis in Rome and from the Church in China.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to prisoners detained in a prison in the Italian city of Velletri, a short distance from Rome.

Prisoners at the facility had written to the Holy Father earlier this year, entrusting their letter to Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the Bishop of Albano, during a pastoral visit to the facility. In his response, Pope Francis thanked the detainees for thinking of him, and assured them that they, and others in similar situations, were often in his thoughts as well. He noted that during his Apostolic Voyages, he always tries to make a visit to local prisons. (photo from a previous prison visit)


The Pope noted that during the Holy Year of Mercy, there will also be a jubilee for prisoners, and he assured them that on that day he would be “in communion” with all prisoners “spiritually and in reciprocal prayer.”

Pope Francis also expressed his sympathy, noting that prisoners “are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end.” But, he said, “the true measure of time is not that of the clock”; rather, “the true measure of time is called hope.” He expressed his desire that all those incarcerated might “always keep lit the light of the hope of faith to illuminate” their lives.

“Always be certain that God loves you personally,” the Pope wrote to the prisoners. He encouraged them to never allow themselves to be closed in by their past, but rather to transform the past “into a journey of growth, of faith and charity.” He called on them to “give God the possibility” of making them “to shine” through their experience, recalling that many saints throughout history “have achieved sanctity” in harsh and difficult situations. “With Christ,” he said, “all this is possible.”


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A group of dozens of Christians led by Cardinal Joseph Zen has asked the Chinese government to stop demolishing crosses on mainland China and to release religious leaders from jail. The retired bishop of Hong Kong pointed out that freedom is declining even in the former British colony: “We need to speak out, to take action to prevent this from spreading”.


The protests were held yesterday in front of the Hong Kong Liaison Office with China. The Hong Kong Christian Institute, Christians for Hong Kong Society, Christian Social Concern Fellowship and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Hong Kong were the four groups that protested yesterday. Participants chanted, “respect for religious freedom” as they left flowers in memory of those who have died to affirm this right in China.

The group reminded those gathered that more than 2,000 crosses were removed or demolished in the province of Zhejiang alone since the end of 2013, when the campaign against Christian religious symbols was started by the local Party. In addition, the protesters asked the central government in Beijing to release pastors and priests imprisoned for opposing these demolitions.

Cardinal Zen he was worried the anti- Christian campaign could spread to Hong Kong. “The freedom is less and less. So we have to speak out because we, in Hong Kong, can see the possibility of the anti- Christian campaign spreading from the mainland,” he said.


The Hong Kong protests come one day after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and representatives of the United Front (which gathers together all “non-communist” social groups in modern-day China).

During his address, Xi stressed that religious groups must obey the Party: ” Religious groups must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China”. But party members must be “unyielding Marxist atheists,” Xi said, calling on them to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”