Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong has warned against confusion in reactions to the Pope's message to the Church in China.
The cardinals has also directly criticized statements by a noted Catholic Sinologist, Father Jerooom Heyndrickx, who said that the Pope's main objective was to promote union between the "official" Church recognized by the government and the "underground" Church loyal to the Holy See.
In statements released earlier this month, Father Heyndrickx, the Belgian head of the Ferdinand Verbiest Foundation at Leuven’s Catholic University, said that the Pope had encouraged bishops of the underground Church to join with "official" bishops in concelebrating Mass. Cardinal Zen stressed that the Pope encouraged concelebration only with those bishops who had regularized their status with the Holy See.
Similarly, the cardinal said that it was wrong to suggest that the Pope wanted all "underground" bishops to register with the government. In fact, the papal message only authorized the Chinese bishops themselves to make the "very difficult decision" on whether they should apply for offical status, Cardinal Zen said.
The cardinal also denied that the Pope has removed all canonical sanctions on those Chinese bishops who were ordained without the approval of the Holy See. He noted that the Pope's letter, while concentrating on his desire for unity within the Church, does mention the canonical penalties for such illicit ordinations, and says that the Vatican cannot recognize the authority of the Chinese bishops' conference as long as these bishops are included and others (of the underground Church) are excluded.