Joseph Zen, the newly installed cardinal of Hong Kong, expressed his worry about the worsening China-Vatican relations as China facilitated the ordinations of three bishops without the consent of the Vatican in May.
Cardinal Zen was invited to Rome, Italy, since last week. During an interview with the Cable TV, as reported by Kyodo News, Zen said, "(China's state-sanctioned Catholic church) wanted it to be a slap in the face, but actually, they were defeated.
"The Holy See made a very clear statement, even in the face of that statement the government has responded very mildly."
Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu was appointed head of the Mindong Diocese in Eastern Fujian without being approved by the Pope in mid-May, following the similar ordinations of Bishop Ma Yinglin of Yunnan Province and Bishop Liu Xinhong of Anhui Province.
After the Communist Party took over China in 1949, Catholics churches in China are only recognized if they join the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association. Under the system, such churches are prohibited to be loyal to the pope and the appointment of bishops is done by the Chinese government.
China has insisted on the independency over the appointment of bishops, saying it is a "prerequisite" for rebuilding the China-Vatican ties. However, the Vatican has suggested a moderate method, in which the Holy See presents various names that the government can then choose from.
Zen, a pro-democracy and outspoken figure against China’s restricted religious policy, has once commented during his elevation to cardinal in March, "only if China is willing to open itself and grant more religious freedom, should the Sino-Vatican tie be recovered."
During the most recent interview with the Cable TV, he urged the Vatican to take hardline stance and stop all dialogue with China, in the light of China’s stubborn actions, according to Kyodo News.
On the other hand, Zen still has strong sympathy to the millions of believers in China, as he said, "We have received this fortune, which is the faith; others do not have it, especially in China," during a solemn Mass in the Tor Bella Monaca section of Rome on Wednesday, Zenit news agency reported.
In the Diocese of Hong Kong, there are some 250,000 faithful out of a total population of 7 million, Zen thanked God for the gift of faith.
Zen celebrates the unity with the Vatican. According to Zenit, he stressed in his homily, "the profound communion there is between himself, his people and the Church. The Pope has said nothing to me about what I should do, but he asks you to accept me: I'm the winner! I give myself to you and, with me, I give you my Chinese people."
"Our people have the sense of faith; we remain faithful to Rome. There are only a few who have left us because they are confused," he said.