Benedict XVI’s efforts to support the Church in China were “wasted by others close to him,” says emeritus bishop of Hong Kong  Cardinal Joseph Zen :

This Pope has done things that for China that he has not done for any other country: to no other particular Church has he written a specific letter, no country has a special Commission dedicated to it of about 30 members, from the two most important dicasteries in the Holy See. We should be profoundly grateful to him for this.

But unfortunately I have to add that often he was a lonely voice in the wilderness. I have said and I repeat: his work was wasted by others close to him, who did not follow his line. I’m not here to judge consciences: it is likely that these his advisers thought that maybe he did not know enough about the situation, who he was unable to pursue the right strategy. In any case, these people have not implemented what Benedict XVI has established as the guidelines for the Church in China.

Saying “others” I mean people in the Vatican, but also those outside who, without the help of the Holy See, would not have done so much damage.

It is a very unpleasant situation, although it shows another aspect of the personality of Benedict XVI: he is absolutely firm in dealing with the truth, but is very respectful of the people around him, very—-perhaps too—-polite: gentle man, who never uses force.

This is not a weakness, it is the other side of one of his great merits, kindness, respect, mercy, the exact opposite of how he has often been depicted (the “conservative”, the “panzer”, “the ‘inquisitor”, etc.)

I too at times was impatient and I felt that he was overly condescending. In recent years I have continued to emphasize this point because in China the people are very simple and easily identify the Holy See with the Pope. Instead it must be said that much of what has been done in China, is not always attributable to the Holy Father . . . .

The Pope himself, faced with events in China, always referred to the “courage.” Instead, those around him, spoke of “compassion”, “understanding”, “patience”, exaggerating and ceding ground well beyond any acceptable limits, against the majority consensus of the Commission.

Articles by Matthew Schmitz

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