Hong Kong cardinal warns of split if Vatican reaches agreement with China

China and Vatican likely to sign agreement about bishop appointments later this month: reports

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Cardinal Joseph Zen (right) handing a letter to Pope Francis last January.

Cardinal Joseph Zen (right) handing a letter to Pope Francis last January. (By Associated Press)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) - The Catholic Church in Asia could split if the Vatican signs an agreement with China later this month, Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen (陳日君) warned, according to a report by Voice of America.

Last week, the Wall Street Journal said the Vatican and Beijing had reached an agreement on how to choose the bishops of the Catholic Church in China, and would sign a “landmark agreement” on the issue by the end of September.

However, while some regard the likely deal as a diplomatic triumph for Pope Francis, others are worried about the consequences.

The 86-year-old retired Hong Kong archbishop reportedly wrote a letter to the Pope saying that while an agreement would help, it might also divide the faithful in the region. Pope Francis, who hails from Argentina, did not understand Chinese leader Xi Jinping (習近平) and was too optimistic as he did not have sufficient experience of dealing with the communist government, Zen reportedly wrote.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Beijing will accept the appointment of bishops by the Pope, who in return will recognize seven bishops appointed by China, a move described as a major concession.

Government circles in Taiwan have discounted the possibility that the agreement would be followed by the establishment of official diplomatic relations between China and the Vatican, Taipei’s last ally in Europe.