The Holy See has asked two recognized bishops in China to step down and make way for illicit bishops, causing uproar among Chinese Catholics.
After learning of the move, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong made a special trip to Rome to hand in a letter to Pope Francis.
The emeritus bishop told ucanews.com that it is a very critical issue, and he hoped the Holy See would “step back from the precipice before it is too late.”
Bishop Zhuang Jianjian, 88, of Shantou of Guangdong province, and Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin, 59, of Mindong of Fujian province, were asked to step down. Both are recognized by the Holy See.
Bishop Zhuang was asked to give way to illicit Bishop Huang Bingzhang, 51, of Shantou, who is excommunicated. Bishop Guo was asked to make way for government-sanctioned Bishop Zhan Silu, 57, of Mindong, who was ordained illicitly.
According to Catholic media, Bishop Zhuang was forced to go to Beijing in December 2017 to meet a Vatican delegation led by “a foreign high-ranking prelate.” He was asked to resign and give up his episcopate to Bishop Huang.
A source who asked to be unnamed told ucanews.com that Bishop Zhuang, however, denied the request “because it would violate the dogma and principles of the church.”
A priest from Shantou Diocese questioned the delegates’ real identities because “the incident is too incredible and unreasonable.”
The source said Bishop Zhuang had gone through the most difficult time in his life without shedding a tear but he felt betrayed and was very sad.
The Vatican secretly approved the episcopal ordination of Bishop Zhuang in 2006, but the government only recognizes him as a priest.
A Vatican delegation went to Fujian province to visit illicit Bishop Zhan.
According to Asia News, Bishop Guo was detained by the government for a month in the Holy Week last year.
He was asked to sign a document stating that he was “volunteering” for demotion. It was said that the document was the condition for him to be recognized by the government.
An underground church administrator said it was not a good approach to sacrifice recognized community bishops’ allegiance. There is no sign of the Chinese government releasing its grip on the church, he added.
Paul, a Catholic from Hebei province, said the Holy See was using all means to sacrifice legitimate bishops in exchange for having good relations with Chinese authorities.
“I am afraid that the Holy See has just been led by the nose, allowing itself to be manipulated,” he said.
He admitted to being shocked by the news and believes that the Holy See knows what is happening. “It is totally a shame on the church,” he said.
Paul stressed that the more the Holy See acts like that, the stronger Catholics should be. “We can neither bow nor compromise. If the Vatican does not live up to expectations, we have to fight for ourselves,” he said.
Benedict, a Catholic from Shanghai, told ucanews.com that he has already lost his faith in the Holy See because of this issue.
He quoted a metaphor from Revelation 12, saying that “the Vatican currently compromises and cooperates with the Red Dragon at all cost, giving up the principles of the church, just revealing the act of a fictitious Christ and church.”
He also noted that “old bishops and priests of the underground church could not die in peace when they see what has happened.”
Another Catholic, John, said faith is not for trade and “the principles of the church could not be betrayed” but now the Holy See just “betrays those who maintain allegiance to the church and it ultimately submits itself to the total control of the Satan.”