On July 5, an extremely strange event occurred in the Vatican. Every Sunday the Pope gives his usual Angelus address to the faithful from the balcony of the Apostolic Palace. Hours before, the “embargoed” text is distributed to the few accredited journalists, meaning that the media can only quote it after the pontiff has delivered it.
According to several Italian media, the embargoed text of last Sunday included a paragraph on the delicate situation that Hong Kong is going through after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) imposed the new National Security Law that threatens the autonomy and freedom that the British ex-colony enjoys.
However, there was no mention of this situation in the speech.
The excerpt that the Pope omitted read as follows:
“In the last few days, I have followed with a special attention, and not without concern, how a complicated situation was developing in Hong Kong. First of all, I would like to express my sympathy and closeness to all those living there. What is being discussed in these days concerns delicate matters, affecting everybody’s life. Accordingly, it is easy to understand how feelings can be strong. I wish therefore that all those involved would be able to confront the issues in a spirit of wisdom and genuine dialogue. This requires courage, humility, non-violence, and respect for the dignity and rights of all. It is my desire that social and, particularly, religious life may manifest themselves in full and genuine freedom, as indeed several international documents mandate. My prayer remains constantly with the Catholic community and all people of good will in Hong Kong, so that they may build together a prosperous and harmonious society.”
Several international newspapers have echoed the news and claim that, in the face of such repercussions, the Vatican has not denied that the text belongs to the embargoed discourse.
“The Holy See declines to comment on reason for change,” noted a report in the Hong Kong newspaper South China Morning Post.
“The text was quite moderate, but the references to ‘full and genuine freedom’ and to ‘international documents’ that China [the CCP] should respect could have bothered the Chinese government,” said Massimo Introvigne, a well-known Italian sociologist of religions.
But then what happened?
“Critics claim that, in the few hours between the distribution of the embargoed text to the media and the speech, China [the CCP] intervened,” stated the director general of the Center for New Religious Studies in a column published on the Bitter Winter website.
This anomaly occurs in a context where speculation abounds about the renewal of the agreement signed between the Vatican and the Chinese regime in 2018, which is scheduled for September 2020.
At this point it should be noted that the agreement is secret.
Since Pope Francis began his controversial process of rapprochement with the CCP, criticism has spread, both within and outside the Catholic Church as it is widely documented how Catholic priests, bishops, and the faithful who follow the Vatican are brutally persecuted under the dictatorship of the CCP.
Since communism took power in China, religious freedoms have been brutally repressed. Specifically, the Chinese Bureau of Religious Affairs was established in 1957 in order to control the activities of Catholics, the faithful must register with the so-called Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association in order to profess their faith.
Since then, it is the CCP (and not the Vatican) that appoints the “official” Catholic bishops.
“This Patriotic Association intends that Catholics progressively adhere to the falsehoods of atheistic materialism, by which God is denied and all supernatural principles are rejected,” Pope Pius XII had already warned decades ago.
Currently, there are 138 dioceses run by 79 official bishops in mainland China.
The Catholic faithful who worship according to the Vatican are forced to practice their faith underground by attending services in unofficial churches.
That is why many believe that the pope’s omitted words about Hong Kong last Sunday are due to the fact that the Vatican is renegotiating with the CCP the 2018 agreement on the appointment of Chinese bishops.
It is also important to note that in all four categories of crime—punishable by up to life imprisonment—in the new National Security Act there is collusion with a foreign country or external elements to endanger national security. Therefore, any public discourse by Hong Kong Catholics faithful to the Vatican could be interpreted by the CCP as interference in their internal affairs.
Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has expressed his fears of the law because he believes that the new rules could be used to subvert the religious freedom that Hong Kong citizens currently enjoy.