Posts Tagged ‘Pope Francis’

China — And The Road Toward Greatness

June 24, 2018

We keep hearing a lot about Chinese greatness amid stories of a surveillance state, intellectual property theft, coercion and censorship.

People in the West keep hoping China will become “more like us” but that is not likely ever to happen. At least not in the near future.

The Chinese people today can be viewed as an army of national patriots in service to Emperor Xi Jinping. But they could be slaves to their own repressive government and the surveillance state.

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Chinese leaders certainly see the maelstrom of chaos someday choking western democracies to death. But true adherents to democracy, often Asian immigrants, see counties that operate by principles of freedom, human rights, transparency, and free and fair elections.

China watcher Gordon G. Chang recently appeared on a cable news segment to say he was proud of the American system and that democracy is working. He said our transparency and public debate would never be allowed in China.

If China’s version of the FBI was embroiled in a political scandal we would never even know. The perpetrators would be in prison, perhaps tortured, or dead.

So instead of Americans constantly ripping down their government and their president, they might look around and be grateful for their right to protest, exercise free speech and offer solutions.

Calling people Nazis accomplishes nothing except adding fuel to hatred.

“Resistance” was a cherished word of anti-Nazi freedom fighters in France during World war II — when trains full of people were being sent to death camps and Zyklon B “showers.”

Since we are still allowed to pray, let’s pray that China finds a new path toward greatness and human rights and freedom.

Because a New World Order is coming. The post-World War II, Berlin Wall, Soviet Union, early EU era may be running out of time. Peace could actually break out in Korea — a nation at war since 1950. The rush for nuclear weapons could be replaced by calls for denuclearization. Ballistic missiles could someday be mere museum pieces.

Palestinians might even live in peace with Israelis.

Maybe even the problems of immigration and migration could be solved.

Closed minds and hatred don’t seem to be working.

But we can hope. And work toward a better world.

The world needs to think Big.

Thinking small since the dawn of the new century in 2000 has gotten us where? In a mess of religious wars and terrorism. We don’t need to be killing Uyghurs or Rohingya.

Unless we want to leave a world in chaos and oppression and hatred and death to our children and grandchildren.

John Francis Carey
Peace and Freedom

We mourn and salute our colleague and friend Charles Krauthammer.

See also:

China is World-Leading Censor With ‘Total Control’ Over News: Press Freedom Group

China is World-Leading Censor With ‘Total Control’ Over News: Press Freedom Group


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HBO website and comedian John Oliver censored in China

June 24, 2018

It was one Winnie the Pooh joke too far.

After mocking censors working over time to delete comparisons of President Xi Jinping with the cartoon bear, comedian John Oliver and now the website of TV giant HBO have fallen victim to China’s censorship machine.

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Chinese authorities blocked HBO’s website in China, just days after Oliver took Xi to task, anti-censorship and monitoring group said on Saturday.

HBO joins a long list of Western media outlets that have had their websites blocked in China including The New York Times, Facebook, and Twitter.

“China: the country responsible for huge technological advances but it still can’t seem to get pandas to f***,” Oliver opened the episode of “Last Week Tonight” that is causing the problems.

Those technological advances include draconian surveillance and censorship measures which appear to have made HBO and Oliver their latest victims.

Oliver’s name and that of the show he hosts were censored on China’s popular twitter like Weibo.

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“Send failure” Weibo returned when AFP attempted to post Oliver’s name.

“Content is illegal!” the service said.

YouTube, which also airs “Last Week Tonight”, has long been blocked in China.

Oliver’s segment dug into Xi’s distaste at comparisons to the self-described “bear of very little brain” and introduced viewers to repressive changes underway in the world’s most populous country.

Chinese netizens have often compared Xi to A.A. Milne’s most famous creation, something that censors have been quick to purge inside the Great Firewall.

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The segment also recounted recent headlines: from Xi becoming “emperor for life” to a corruption purge that targeted his political rivals, to a crackdown on freedom of expression, human rights, and religion, to an ongoing suppression and imprisonment campaign against China’s Uighur ethnic minority.

“Xi is actively removing the post-Mao guardrails that were put in place,” Oliver said of changes to China’s constitution which allow him to remain in power indefinitely.

“China is becoming more authoritarian just as it has major plans for expansion onto the world stage,” Oliver said as the segment neared an end.

“The era of do as we say may be dawning.”



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Pope Francis on abortion: It’s what the Nazis did, only with white gloves

June 17, 2018

Pope Francis denounced abortion on Saturday as the “white glove” equivalent of the Nazi-era eugenics program and urged families to accept the children that God gives them.

Pope Francis on abortion: It's what the Nazis did, only with white gloves


Pope Francis meets with the Forum of Family Associations in the Clementine Hall at the Vatican. (Vatican Media Handout/EPA-EFE/RE)
Francis spoke off-the-cuff to a meeting of an Italian family association, ditching his prepared remarks to speak from the heart about families and the trials they undergo. He lamented how some couples choose not to have any children, while others resort to pre-natal testing to see if their baby has any malformations or genetic problems.

“Last century, the whole world was scandalized by what the Nazis did to purify the race. Today, we do the same thing but with white gloves,” the agency quoted Francis as saying.

The pope urged families to accept children “as God gives them to us.”

Francis has repeated the strict anti-abortion stance of his predecessors and integrated it into his broader condemnation of what he calls today’s “throwaway culture.” He has frequently lamented how the sick, the poor, the elderly and the unborn are considered unworthy of protection and dignity by a society that prizes individual prowess.

He said women are often considered part of this throwaway culture and are forced to prostitute themselves.

“How many of you pray for these women who are thrown away, for these women who are used, for these girls who have to sell their own dignity to have a job?” Francis asked during his morning homily Friday.

Francis has dedicated much of his pontificate to preaching about families, marriage and the problems that families today encounter. He is expected to highlight the issues during a trip in August to Ireland, which recently voted to legalize abortion.

The Associated Press

Pope Francis in St. Peter’s Square last week. He urged families to accept children “as God gives them to us.” Credit Vincenzo Pinto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images


Are we growing in faith? Not afraid to take risks to be a disciple of Christ? Prayer for Monday, June 11, 2018

June 11, 2018
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Reflection by  The Most Rev Msgr William Goh Archbishop of Singapore
Monday, June 11, 2018

SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Acts 11:21-2613:1-3Mt 10:7-13 ]

The persecution of the Christians in Jerusalem resulted in the Church of Jerusalem going out of herself to other cities.  If not for the persecution, the Christian Church would not have grown because it would have been domesticated and reduced to another sect of Judaism.  So divine providence used such events for the spread of the gospel.   One of the cities that the Jewish Christians went to announce the Good News was Antioch. “A great number believed and were converted to the Lord. The church in Jerusalem heard about this and they sent Barnabas to Antioch. There he could see for himself that God had given grace.”

Barnabas, whose feast we celebrate today, played a key role in the spread of the gospel to all the nations.  Indeed, without Barnabas, Paul, who was then called Saul, might have been left as an unknown figure as many did not quite trust a former persecutor of the Church.  Barnabas might not have been the chosen apostle to the Gentiles, but he was certainly instrumental in rehabilitating Saul in the Christian community, giving him credibility and confidence.  It was his initiative to bring Paul to help him in his ministry.  “Barnabas then left for Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him he brought him to Antioch. As things turned out they were to live together in that church a whole year, instructing a number of people.”  Without his graciousness and encouragement, Saul would not have entered the Church to assume leadership.

Barnabas, whose name means encouragement, was truly an encouraging person towards all those who were growing in faith.  He was not afraid to take risks, as in soliciting Paul for help. He encouraged Paul to work with him in instructing the Christians at Antioch.  “He was a good man, filled with the Holy Spirit and with faith.”  Barnabas was a true example of what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  He patiently formed the early Christians in faith.  “He urged them all to remain faithful to the Lord with heartfelt devotion; and a large number of people were won over to the Lord.” He was aware that just because one is converted to the Lord does not mean that he would stay faithful to Him unless he continues to grow in the faith through study, reading the Word of God and sharing the faith with each other.

What is significant is that the community that Barnabas formed was not a conclave of Christians where they were only concerned about themselves.   A sign of a true, living and loving Christian community is when they reach out and proclaim Christ to others, and form new communities.  This is the danger of many so-called Christian communities. They become exclusive elite club members, absorbed in themselves and admitting only those who are good.  This is the saddest part of the Catholic Church because we are at most parochial-minded, even if we are considered “good Catholics.”  We are not reaching out to each other in the parish, much less to non-Christians.  A look at the statistics of our conversion rate will show that we are a maintenance Church.  With 383,000 Catholics or more, we have slightly over a thousand adult baptisms a year.  We are not a vibrant, evangelistic and missionary Church.  We are quite contented to take care of our own parishes instead of growing new parishes and building new churches and new communities.  We rarely build new churches, for after so many years, we are only 32 parishes.  This clearly indicates that we are not growing fast enough to establish new communities.

In the early Church we see Barnabas and Paul being sent out as missionaries.  “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  They were receptive to the Holy Spirit prompting them to share the Good News with people elsewhere.  Indeed, the Church must be missionary-minded, always finding new ways to establish new communities.  We must avoid being a complacent Church that is inward-looking and protectionist.  We must be ready to welcome new people into the Church and in our ministries.  “Let us go forth, then, let us go forth to offer everyone the life of Jesus Christ. Here I repeat for the entire Church what I have often said to the priests and laity of Buenos Aires: I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rath­er than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security. I do not want a Church concerned with being at the centre and which then ends by being caught up in a web of obsessions and procedures.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 49)

Pope Francis challenged the Church to go forth.  “All of us are called to take part in this new missionary ’going forth’.  Each Christian and every community must dis­cern the path that the Lord points out, but all of us are asked to obey his call to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the ‘peripheries’ in need of the light of the Gospel.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 20) What are these peripheries?  It is not just a geographical periphery but also existential periphery.  We must be bold and creative. “Pastoral ministry in a missionary key seeks to abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way’. I invite every­one to be bold and creative in this task of re­thinking the goals, structures, style and methods of evangelization in their respective communi­ties.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 33)  This is what the gospel is inviting us to do when the Lord said to His disciples, “As you go, proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is close at hand. Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out devils.”

We must open our doors to the world. Jesus instructed His disciples, “Whatever town or village you go into, ask for someone trustworthy and stay with him until you leave. As you enter his house, salute it, and if the house deserves it, let your peace descend upon it; if it does not, let your peace come back to you.”  There is no coercion on our part but just offering the gift of the Good News.  Indeed, Pope Francis is insistent that “The Church is called to be the house of the Father, with doors always wide open. One con­crete sign of such openness is that our church doors should always be open, so that if some­one, moved by the Spirit, comes there looking for God, he or she will not find a closed door. There are other doors that should not be closed either. Everyone can share in some way in the life of the Church; everyone can be part of the community, nor should the doors of the sacra­ments be closed for simply any reason.” (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 47)

This requires us to trust in Jesus and rely on Him alone.  Jesus told the disciples, “Provide yourselves with no gold or silver, not even with a few coppers for your purses, with no haversack for the journey or spare tunic or footwear or a staff, for the workman deserves his keep.”  This mission cannot be accomplished without the Lord and the power of the Holy Spirit, “One day while they were offering worship to the Lord and keeping a fast, the Holy Spirit said, ‘I want Barnabas and Saul set apart for the work to which I have called them.’ So it was that after fasting and prayer they laid their hands on them and sent them off.”  Like the apostles, we are sent by a praying, spirit-filled and anointed community, regardless whether we are priests, religious, missionaries or laity involved in the mission.  We too must pray and discern how the Spirit is asking the Church today to renew herself and to go out to offer everyone the life of Christ

So let us without fear join the psalmist in singing “a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders. His right hand and his holy arm have brought salvation. The Lord has made known his salvation; has shown his justice to the nations. He has remembered his truth and love for the house of Israel.”   Let us go forth as Church, out of our comfort zones, to the existential periphery to announce the gospel of the Lord.  The Lord reminds us, “You have received without charge, give without charge.”  “An evangelizing community knows that the Lord has taken the initiative, he has loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:19), and therefore we can move forward, boldly take the initiative, go out to others, seek those who have fallen away, stand at the crossroads and welcome the out­cast. Such a community has an endless desire to show mercy, the fruit of its own experience of the power of the Father’s infinite mercy.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

Let us be generous in our contribution and support, whether in financial resources or time, to those whom we have sent out as missionaries to proclaim the gospel, those who labour in our diocese and beyond. It is not enough to send them out without supporting them with our prayers and resources.  “The Church which ‘goes forth’ is a com­munity of missionary disciples who take the first step, who are involved and supportive, who bear fruit and rejoice. An evangelizing community is also supportive, standing by people at every step of the way, no matter how difficult or lengthy this may prove to be.”  (Gaudium Evangelii, No. 24)

Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore

Prayer for Evangelization

Heavenly Father,

Pour forth your Holy Spirit to inspire me with these words from Holy Scripture.

Stir in my soul the desire to renew my faith and deepen my relationship with your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ so that I might truly believe in and live the Good News.

Open my heart to hear the Gospel and grant me the confidence to proclaim the Good News to others.

Pour out your Spirit, so that I might be strengthened to go forth and witness to the Gospel in my everyday life through my words and actions.

In moments of hesitation, remind me:

If not me, then who will proclaim the Gospel?

If not now, then when will the Gospel be proclaimed?

If not the truth of the Gospel, then what shall I proclaim?

God, our Father, I pray that through the Holy Spirit I might hear the call of the New Evangelization to deepen my faith, grow in confidence to proclaim the Gospel and boldly witness to the saving grace of your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.



Bishop Goh reminds us to be “Dynamic Catholics.”

  1. Pray/Meditate
  2. Study
  3. Pour ourselves out in service to others


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Book: Holy Spirit by Fr. Edward Leen

Anthony Hopkins: ‘I’m happy I’m an alcoholic. It’s a great gift’

May 31, 2018

“We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.” — “Just be grateful to be alive.”
Alcoholism and ambition fuelled the actor’s rise. He talks masculinity, fame and ‘King Lear’
Mon, May 28, 2018, 09:04

Anthony Hopkins is joined by a star-studded cast in the BBC’s adaptation of William Shakespeare’s King Lear. Video: BBC
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For anyone who looks toward their later years with trepidation, Sir Anthony Hopkins (“Tony, please”) is a proper tonic. He is 79, and happier than he has ever been.

This is due to a mixture of things: his relationship with his wife of 15 years, Stella, who has encouraged him to keep fit, and to branch out into painting and classical composition; the calming of his inner fire, of which more later; and his work.

Hopkins loves to work. Much of his self-esteem and vigour comes from acting – “Oh, yes, work has kept me going. Work has given me my energy” – and he is in no way contemplating slowing down. You can feel a quicksilver energy about him, a restlessness. Every so often, I think he’s going to stop the interview and take flight, but actually he’s enjoying himself and keeps saying, “Ask me more! This is great!”

We meet in Rome, where he is making a Netflix film about the relationship between the last pope (Benedict) and the current one (Francis). Hopkins is playing Benedict, Jonathan Pryce is Francis.

He is enjoying this – “We’re filming in the Sistine Chapel tomorrow!” – and we are both relishing the lovely view across the city from the penthouse suite in the hotel where he’s staying. Still, he declares that the film we are here to talk about, the BBC’s King Lear, filmed in England and directed by Richard Eyre, is the piece of work that has made him truly happy.

“I felt, ‘Yes, I can do this.’ I can do this sort of work. I didn’t walk away. And it’s so invigorating, because I know I can do it, and I’ve got my sense of humour, my humility, and nothing’s been destroyed.”

He’s played the part before, at the National Theatre in 1986, with David Hare directing. “I was… ” – he counts in his head “… 48,” he says. “Ridiculous. I didn’t realise I was too young. I had no concept of how to do it. I was floundering.”

Now, he feels he’s got Lear right, and few would disagree. In a star-studded cast – Emma Thompson plays Goneril; Emily Watson, Regan; Jim Broadbent, Gloucester; Jim Carter, Kent; Andrew Scott, Edgar – it’s Hopkins who dominates. He is fantastic: his white hair close-cropped, his manner like a heavy-headed bull, a scary tyrant losing his powers, a drinker who flips into terrifying rage.

Hopkins’s theory is that Lear’s wife died giving birth to Cordelia, and Lear brought her up, his favourite, as a tomboy. Of the older two daughters, Watson said, “and I agree with her, that they have become monsters, because he made them so”.

Hopkins believes that Lear is terrified of women, can’t understand them. Hence the awful specificity of the curses he rains on his older daughters, damning their wombs. He seeks refuge in men, surrounding himself with a boisterous male army. The scenes where Lear wants to bring his retinue to Regan’s house are reminiscent of an awful, all-boys-together drink-fest.

“I come from a generation where men were men,” Hopkins says. “There’s nothing soft or touchy-feely about any of us, where we were from in Wales. There’s a negative side to that, because we’re not very good at receiving love or giving it. We don’t understand it. After Richard Burton died, his brother Graham invited me to the Dorchester where they were all having a get-together, the wives and the men, all the sisters and brothers. All pissed. And I noticed the women were sipping their ports and brandy, but all the men were, ‘Come on, drink! Drink!’ I thought, ‘There’s something very Greek about this.’ Men together. You know, like the bouzouki dancers. It’s not homosexuality, but it is a sexuality, a kind of bonding. That’s what I was thinking of.”

Hopkins often uses his past to find his way into a character. Small incidents that stick in his mind, real people who inform. In the scene with Kent, Edgar and the Fool, as Lear descends into madness, he has all three line up on a bench and addresses them with the wrong names. Hopkins decided that Lear had seen his father drown three puppies when he was young and believed his friends to be those dogs.

“Cruelty to an animal stays with you for the rest of your life,” he says. “I once witnessed something like that, but I can’t think of it too much, it’s too upsetting. But that little kernel of an event doesn’t go. It grows with you.” When he portrays deliberately scary people – such as Hannibal Lecter or Robert Ford in the Westworld series – he plays them quietly, emphasising their sinister control. His Lear, though, is explosive. “He’s completely bonkers – he laughs at the storm. That’s what I like about him.”

In the film, Hopkins uses a horseshoe as his crown. He asked a friend, Drew Dalton, a props guy on Westworld who is also an Idaho farmer, to get it for him, and he told him it was from an old horse, born in 1925. When Hopkins talks about this horse, he gets a little teary. “I carry the horseshoe with me wherever I go now. I still get emotional about it – the power, and the loneliness, and the pain of that horse. That’s Lear.”

Tears come easily to him, especially when he talks about hard work, old age, masculinity. His father, Dick, was a baker, a tough, practical man, born of another baker. But, Hopkins says, as he got older, small things would upset him, “like if he made a mistake in his car and drove off a ramp instead of getting it just right, he’d break down crying. Towards the end of his life, he used to drink, and he was unpredictable. Never violent, but sudden turns of rage, and then deep depressions. Turned on my mother, turned on me. I was old enough, so it didn’t bother me. We didn’t speak much before he died. He resented me for something. I understood it, I could get it, and I thought, ‘What a terrible, lonely horror, for people at the end of their lives.’”

It’s easy to see how he drew on this for Lear. Hopkins has a daughter, too, Abigail, from his first marriage, but they don’t have a relationship, so there was no inspiration there. “No. I accepted it years ago. It’s her choice and she must live her life. I say to young people, ‘If your parents are giving you trouble, move out.’ You’ve got to let go. You don’t have to kill your parents, but just leave if it’s holding you back.”

Lear came out of another BBC film, an adaptation of Ronald Harwood’s The Dresser, also directed by Eyre and broadcast in 2015. Hopkins was the ageing, belligerent actor Sir, who is preparing to play Lear; Ian McKellen was Norman, his dresser. Hopkins had wanted to do the play since picking up a copy in a bookshop in Los Angeles, where he lives: “It opened the valves of nostalgia.”

When he first became involved in the theatre, in the late 1950s, Hopkins was a stage manager, touring northern towns, meeting “old, wrecked, alcoholic, wonderful” vaudeville comedians who’d worked during the war, talking to stage hands who knew the technique of dropping the curtain for comedy (fast) and tragedy (very slow). Then he joined the National in the time of Olivier and Gielgud. He was impatient for success. “Oh,” he says, “I had non-speaking parts, messengers and God knows what, and I was very disgruntled, because I wanted to be bigger. So I went to the casting director and said, ‘Who do you have to sleep with to get a part around here?’ I’d only been there three weeks!”

The casting director was taken aback, but mentioned him to Olivier, who gave him a part as an IRA man in Juno And The Paycock. Hopkins knows now that his hubris was ludicrous, but he was anxious to get to the action, and still is. “I think, with life, just get on with it, you know?” he says. “We’re all going to die, and that’s a great motivator.”

I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess
At the National, he met the actors Ernest Milton, Donald Wolfit and Paul Scofield, and he drew on these memories to play Sir (Harwood had been Wolfit’s dresser). He surprised himself by how much he enjoyed making The Dresser. It was a sort of revelation. “When I was at the National all those years ago, I knew I had something in me,” he says, “but I didn’t have the discipline. I had a Welsh temperament and didn’t have that ‘fitting in’ mechanism.

“Derek Jacobi, who is wonderful, had it, but I didn’t. I would fight, I would rebel. I thought, ‘Well, I don’t belong here.’ And for almost 50 years afterwards, I felt that edge of, ‘I don’t belong anywhere, I’m a loner.’ I don’t have any friends who are actors at all. But in The Dresser, when Ian [McKellen] responded, it was wonderful. We got on so well and I suddenly felt at home, as though that lack of belonging was all in my imagination, all in my vanity.”

He’s always called himself a loner – “alone, loner, solitary”, he says to me – and in past interviews his outsiderdom has become almost his headline characteristic. But he and McKellen bonded, regaling each other with old stories instead of rehearsing. Having felt, for all those years, unwanted by the establishment, the establishment was making him welcome. He also realised that he wanted to do Lear for real.

Not on stage, though. Despite his nostalgia, Hopkins hates the theatre. In 1973, he walked out of Macbeth mid-run at the National and moved to LA. The last stage play he was in was M Butterfly, in the West End in 1989. It was a torment, he says, the tipping point being a matinee where nobody laughed, “not a titter”. When the lights came up, the cast realised the entire audience was Japanese. “Oh God,” he recalls. “You’d go to your dressingroom and someone would pop their head round the door and say, ‘Coffee? Tea?’ And I’d think, ‘An open razor, please.’”

He can’t stand being unproductive, working without a point; it drives him mad. David Hare once told Hopkins he’d never met anyone as angry: “And this was when I was off the booze!” He gave up drinking in 1975. For a while, he tried to quieten down his personality (“I was ever so careful”), but his mother told him it wasn’t working. “She said, ‘Why don’t you just be the bastard that you really are?’ She said, ‘I know what you’re like, you’re a monster.’ I said, ‘Yes.’ She said, ‘Well, okay then, be a monster.’

“But the anger, you begin to channel it,” he says. “I’m very happy I’m an alcoholic – it’s a great gift, because wherever I go, the abyss follows me. It’s a volcanic anger you have, and it’s fuel. Rocket fuel. But of course it can rip you to pieces and kill you. So, gradually, over the years, I have learned not to be a people-pleaser. I don’t have a temper any more. I get impatient, but I try not to judge. I try to live and let live. I don’t get into arguments, I don’t offer opinions, and I think if you do that, then the anger finally begins to transform into drive.”

Now, if he’s not acting, he paints, or plays the piano. He released an album of classical compositions, Composer, performed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra in 2011, which was well-received. “Hopkins writes with considerable flair and confidence,” said one critic, while Amazon gives it four stars. He began painting at the behest of Stella, who saw how he decorates his scripts. He goes over his lines around 250 times, until he can recite them backwards, sideways, in his sleep. Every time he reads them, he draws a doodle on his script, and the doodles, which start as small crosses, grow enormously large, covering all the blank space. Stella saw this and got him to paint “favours”, little presents for their wedding guests.

“She said, ‘Well, if they don’t work, no one’s going to put you in jail,’” he says. And nobody did, because his paintings are pretty fine; they sell for thousands of dollars. He shows me some on his phone. They’re expressionist, full of bright colours – “South American colours: Stella is Colombian” – and he’s working towards a show next year in St Petersburg, which he’s very excited about.

“Ask me more questions!” he says. He doesn’t want to waste time sitting around while the photographer sets up. We talk animals. He and Stella collect stray cats and dogs. We talk politics. He doesn’t care about Trump; he doesn’t vote. He takes a widescreen approach to politics, because focusing on the detail makes him too unhappy.

“I don’t vote because I don’t trust anyone. We’ve never got it right, human beings. We are all a mess, and we’re very early in our evolution. Look back throughout history: you have the 20th century, the murder of 100 million people, barely 80 years ago. The 1914-18 war, the civil war in America, slaughter, bloodshed… I don’t know if there’s a design in it, but it is extraordinary to look at it and get a perspective. I think, ‘Well, if it’s the end, there’s nothing we can do about it, and it’ll blow over, whatever happens.’”

He remembers talking to his father on the phone during the Cuban missile crisis (“and I was a raving Marxist then”) and his father remarking that the bomb would be dropped on London, so Hopkins would be all right, “because the bomb will drop on you, so you won’t know much about it. But in Wales, we’ll suffer the fallout.” His dad also once said to him, about Hitler and the second World War, “Six years later, he was dead in a bunker. So much for the Third Reich”, which makes me laugh.

Now he avoids news and politics, for his peace of mind. “In America, they’re obsessed with healthy food,” he says. “They tell you, if you eat junk food, you get fat and you die. Well, television is run by money and corporate power and sponsorship. It’s junk food for the brain. Toxic.” If he’s not busy, he orders books online and sends them to friends – Wake Up And Live! by Dorothea Brande, The Life-Changing Magic Of Not Giving A F**k by Sarah Knight – or watches old films and TV on his iPad. He was obsessed with Breaking Bad, and wrote a lovely letter to Bryan Cranston extolling his acting; now, he likes watching Midsomer Murders, The Persuaders and Rosemary & Thyme.

We talk a bit about the #MeToo movement . Hopkins says, about Harvey Weinstein, “I did know about the person you are referring to, about his sexual stuff. I know he is a rude man and a tyrant. But I avoided him, I didn’t want anything to do with people like that. Bullies.”

And actually, despite his desire to live and let live, Hopkins often calls bullies out: when John Dexter, the director of M Butterfly, started shouting at everyone in the cast, Hopkins told him to stop.

“I said, ‘John, you don’t need to do this. You’re a great director. Stop it.’ And he cried. I mean, I understand if people are bullies. They’ve got their problems. I can’t judge them, I won’t make fun of them at awards. It’s correct for women to stand up for themselves, because it’s unacceptable. But I don’t have a desire to dance on anyone’s grave.”

He understands that we can all be terrible, and we can all be kind. Fame and power have nothing to do with it. I tell Hopkins something the singer Tony Bennett once said – “Life teaches you how to live it if you live long enough” – and he is delighted. “How extraordinary. What an amazing thing to say! You know, I meet young people, and they want to act and they want to be famous, and I tell them, when you get to the top of the tree, there’s nothing up there. Most of this is nonsense, most of this is a lie. Accept life as it is. Just be grateful to be alive.”

He shows me a picture on his phone. It’s of him aged three, with his dad on a beach near Aberavon. His dad is grinning. Hopkins is a cherubic child, with golden curls, caught somewhere between laughing and crying. “I was upset because I’d dropped a cough sweet.” He keeps it because it reminds him of how far he’s come.

“I think, ‘Good God, I should be in Port Talbot.’ Either dead, or working in my father’s bakery. For some inexplicable reason I’m here, and none of it makes sense. And I look at him and I say, ‘We did okay, kid.’” – Guardian

‘King Lear’ is on BBC2 on Monday May 28th


Chilean bishops quit en masse over sex abuse cover-up

May 18, 2018

Every Chilean bishop offered to resign Friday over a sex abuse and cover-up scandal, in the biggest shakeup ever in the Catholic Church’s long-running abuse saga.

© Vincenzo Pinto, AFP | Pope Francis celebrates an open-air mass at Maquehue airport in Temuco, 800km south of Santiago, on January 17, 2018.

The bishops announced at the end of an emergency summit with Pope Francis that all 31 active bishops and three retired ones in Rome had signed a document offering to resign and putting their fate in the hands of the pope. Francis can accept the resignations one by one, reject them or delay a decision.

It marked the first known time in history that an entire national bishops conference had offered to resign en masse over scandal, and laid bare the devastation that the abuse crisis has caused the Catholic Church in Chile and beyond.

Calls had mounted for the resignations after details emerged of the contents of a 2,300-page Vatican report into the Chilean scandal leaked early Friday. Francis had accused the bishops of destroying evidence of sex crimes, pressuring investigators to minimize abuse accusations and showing “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophile priests.

The Church’s hierarchy collectively responsible

In one of the most damning documents from the Vatican on the issue, Francis said the entire Chilean church hierarchy was collectively responsible for “grave defects” in handling cases and the resulting loss of credibility that the Catholic Church has suffered.

“No one can exempt himself and place the problem on the shoulders of the others,” Francis wrote in the document, which was published by Chilean T13 television and confirmed as accurate Friday by the Vatican.

In a statement in response, the Chilean bishops said the contents of the document were “absolutely deplorable” and showed an “unacceptable abuse of power and conscience,” as well as sexual abuse.

They asked forgiveness to the victims, the pope and all Catholics and vowed to repair the damage.

“Grave defects” in how abuse cases were handled

Francis summoned the entire bishops’ conference to Rome after admitting that he had made “grave errors in judgment” in the case of Bishop Juan Barros, who is accused by victims of Chilean priest, the Rev. Fernando Karadima, of witnessing and ignoring their abuse.

But the scandal grew beyond the Barros case after Francis received the report written by two Vatican sex crimes experts sent to Chile to get a handle on the scope of the problem. Their report hasn’t been made public, but Francis cited its core findings in the footnotes of the document that he handed over to the bishops at the start of their summit this week.

And those findings are damning.

Francis said the investigation showed there were “grave defects” in the way abuse cases were handled, with superficial investigations or no investigation at all of allegations that contained obvious evidence of crimes. The result, he said, “created a scandal for those who denounced them and all those who know the alleged victims.”

In other cases, there was “grave negligence” in protecting children from pedophiles by bishops and religious superiors   a reference to the many cases of sexual abuse that have arisen in recent years within Chilean religious orders, including the Salesians, Franciscans and the Marist Brothers community.

Some of these religious order priests and brothers were expelled from their congregations because of immoral conduct, but had their cases “minimized of the absolute gravity of their criminal acts, attributing to them mere weakness or moral lapses,” Francis wrote.

But those same people “were then welcomed into other dioceses, in an obviously imprudent way, and given diocesan or parish jobs that gave them daily contact with minors,” he said.

Such behavior has been the hallmark of the clerical sex abuse crisis worldwide, with bishops and religious superiors shuttling abusers from parish to parish or dioceses rather than reporting them to police or launching canonical investigations and removing them from ministry.

Francis said he was also “perplexed and ashamed” by the report’s evidence that there were “pressures exercised” on church officials tasked with investigating sex crimes “including the destruction of compromising documents on the part of those in charge of ecclesiastic archives.”

He said such behavior showed “an absolute lack of respect for the canonical process and worse, reprehensible practices that must be avoided in the future.”

He said the problem wasn’t limited to a group of people, but can be traced to the training Chilean priests receive in seminary, blaming the “profound fracture” within the church on the seminaries themselves. The Vatican investigation, he said, contained “grave accusations against some bishops and superiors who sent to these educational institutions priests suspected of active homosexuality.”

Possible Vatican investigation

The harsh assessment of the quality of seminaries suggests that a possible next step might be a full-on Vatican investigation of Chilean schools of priestly training. Pope Benedict XVI ordered such an investigation into Irish seminaries after he convened the entire Irish bishops’ conference for a similar dressing-down in 2010 over their dismal handling of abuse cases.

“The problems inside the church community can’t be solved just by dealing with individual cases and reducing them to the removal of people, though this   and I say so clearly   has to be done,” Francis wrote. “But it’s not enough, we have to go beyond that. It would be irresponsible on our part to not look deeply into the roots and the structures that allowed these concrete events to occur and perpetuate.”

For years, sex abuse victims have blasted the Chilean hierarchy for discrediting their claims, protecting abusers and moving them around rather than reporting them to police and then handing out light sentences when church sanctions were imposed.

Based on Francis’ footnotes, the Vatican investigation compiled by the Catholic Church’s top abuse prosecutor, Archbishop Charles Scicluna and his aide, Monsignor Jordi Bertomeu, gave full credibility to the victims.

Francis, though, has also been implicated in the scandal, and in his document saying all Chilean bishops bore blame he added “and me first of all.”

Francis first drew scorn from victims, ordinary Chileans and even members of his sex abuse advisory board by appointing Barros bishop of Osorno, Chile, in 2015.

The Associated Press reported earlier this year that Francis did so over the objections of other Chilean bishops who knew Barros’ past was problematic and had recommended he and other Karadima-trained bishops resign and take a sabbatical.

The AP subsequently reported that Francis had received a letter in 2015 from one of Karadima’s most vocal accusers, Juan Carlos Cruz, detailing Barros’ misdeeds. That letter undercut Francis’ claim to have never heard from victims about Barros.

Francis further enraged Chileans and drew sharp rebuke from his top abuse adviser when, during a January trip to Chile, he said the accusations against Barros were “calumny” and said he was “certain” he was innocent.

After receiving the Scicluna-Bertomeu report, though, Francis did an about-face. Blaming a “lack of truthful and balanced information” about the case for his missteps, Francis invited the three main whistleblowers to the Vatican hotel he calls home so he could apologize in person.


Archbishop will invite Pope to Taiwan, Vatican-China negotiations ‘appear to have stalled’

May 11, 2018

Archbishop Jong Hung Shan-chun is visiting the Vatican as part of a delegation of Taiwanese Church officials

Taiwanese Archbishop John Hung Shan-chun (Image from Database of Catholic Dioceses in Asia)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwanese Archbishop John Hung Shan-chun (洪山川) reportedly intends to offer a formal invitation to Pope Francis to come visit Taiwan in 2019, for an upcoming Church Congress.

Hung is currently visiting the Vatican as part of a delegation of Taiwanese Church officials. His remarks about inviting the Pope to visit Taiwan were made during a reception at the Taiwanese embassy in the Vatican, according to Reuters.

“No Pope has ever landed in Taiwan” Hung was quoted as saying, but he likes to “dream the impossible.”

Hung will reportedly extend the formal invite to Pope Francis next week, when the Taiwanese delegation of bishops is scheduled to meet with the Catholic leader.

Reuters reports that Huang feels the Pope should visit the country of Taiwan, because Taiwanese people there “have suffered.”

The visit of the world leader to the island nation of Taiwan would be an incredibly remarkable occasion, and also cause a great deal of political unease, as the Vatican has been in the process of negotiating a deal with Beijing, regarding the appointment of party approved clergy in the communist country.

An agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese Communist Party may potentially further marginalize Taiwan’s political status in the world, depending on the outcome of the arrangement.

Many view the visit of the Taiwanese delegation to the Vatican as an attempt to persuade the Holy See to avoid any agreements with Beijing that would be deleterious to the relationship between Taiwan and the Catholic city-state.

Reuters reports that negotiations between Beijing and the Vatican“appear to have stalled recently.”


Vatican: China Deal Stalled Due To China Being, Well … China — Alternate headline: You knew durn well I was a snake before you took me in

May 11, 2018

By Ed Morrissey

Easter service at the government-sanctioned West Beijing Catholic Church. About half of the 10 to 12 million Catholics in China worship in underground churches. Credit Kevin Frayer/Getty Images.

Alternate headline: You knew durn well I was a snake before you took me in. The months-long diplomatic effort by the Vatican to reach an accommodation with China over the appointment of bishops and freedom to practice the Catholic faith has apparently run aground. Pope Francis had hoped to find an agreement that would at least give the Holy See some influence over its leaders in China, but momentum has stalled, the Wall Street Journal’s Francis X Rocca and Eva Dou now report:

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A landmark agreement aimed at healing a nearly 70-year rift between Beijing and the Vatican is in limbo as the Chinese government tightens control over religion. …

The deal’s prospects have been complicated by China’s crackdown on religious institutions and activities, which began with the implementation of strict new regulations in February. President Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party are promoting Marxism and “socialist” values as a state-approved system of belief.

Local officials across the country have toed the line by shutting down unregistered churches and Sunday schools for children, taking down crosses and restricting other practices that are technically illegal in China but generally tolerated, despite periodic crackdowns.

This crackdown hasn’t been that recent, although it does appear to be accelerating. China’s communists spent 70-plus years trying to suppress religious thought already, the issue that the Vatican hopes to end with an agreement. But even last fall before the efforts of the Vatican went public, Beijing began “encouraging” the poor to replace religious imagery in their homes with the beneficent smiling face of Xi Jinping — and threatening to withhold food if they didn’t. Xi is a jealous god, apparently:

The message from officials said the Christians involved had “recognized their mistakes and decided not to entrust to Jesus but to the (Communist) Party” claiming the Christians voluntarily removed 624 religious images and posted 453 portraits of Xi.

The officials also claimed they were “converting” Christians to party loyalty through poverty alleviation and other schemes to help the disadvantaged. Nearly 10 percent of Yugan County’s largely impoverished 1 million people is Christian.

Since the Vatican went public with its efforts to find a rapprochementwith Beijing, it has only grown worse. The Vatican has offered bon motsto China’s leadership, such as when the chancellor of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, Bishop Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo, proclaimed that no one exemplifies true Catholic social justice morethan the regime which still forces women into abortions. In response to that cheerleading, Beijing cracked down on the sales of Bibles and asserted that the purpose of religion was to teach people to “be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people,” and “to support the leadership of the Communist Party of China and the socialist system.”

Salvation comes not from Christ, in other words; it comes from the latest five-year plan and the wit of Xi Jinping. And yet, until now, the Vatican still considered surrendering on the authority to appoint bishops as a means to alleviate some of the oppression on the underground Catholic Church in China:

The Vatican had hoped to clear the biggest hurdle to the deal—intended to bring together China’s state-backed and unauthorized Catholic communities—at a meeting this month, people familiar with the talks said, but it has yet to be scheduled.

At that meeting, the people said, Vatican officials had planned to accede to China’s main precondition for a deal: the formal recognition of seven excommunicated Chinese bishops appointed by the government without the approval of the pope. That would clear the way for Beijing to give Pope Francis the right to veto its future bishop candidates.

The Vatican’s belated recognition of the terms of this surrender comes just in time. The Diplomat noted a few days ago that China planned to use this recognition of Beijing’s authority to twist more arms than just the Catholics:

Other faiths also should take note of these developments as the structure of an agreement may serve as a benchmark for future potential ecclesiastical accords. This could be particularly problematic for organizations such as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (“LDS Church” or informally “Mormons”), which is not one of the five recognized religions in China. The LDS Church has “developed [a] relationship of trust with Chinese officials,” and, like some other religious groups, has adopted a long-term perspective for operating in China. In March 2013, the LDS Church launched a website for Chinese nationals who have joined the church while residing outside China. While it does not have missionaries operating in China, missionaries do serve in Taiwan and Hong Kong. In early April, the LDS Church announced the appointment of its first ethnic Chinese apostle, Gerrit W. Gong.

As is the case with many other foreign religious groups, the LDS Church strictly tailors its activities in China to ensure alignment with Chinese laws and regulations. For example, foreign passport holders may not jointly attend church meetings with Chinese nationals. The hope is that eventually Beijing will come around to allowing religious organizations to expand their activities in the country. However, allowing Beijing to select LDS church leaders in the country would be anathema to LDS doctrine. A China-Vatican agreement on the appointment of bishops as currently laid out might set such a precedent, likely hindering future efforts by the LDS church, among others, in China.

Conducting negotiations behind the scenes provides China increased leverage in any negotiation with the Vatican. Therefore, the Holy See could consider a collective approach with other faith-based organizations or at least consult them on its negotiations with Beijing to advance shared interests in deepening ties to their respective followers in China. While this approach might very well slow or even halt negotiations, it would shed light on where Beijing’s interests truly lie and whether a deal is even worth pursuing.

It’s worth pursuing pressure on China to end persecution of religious believers. There is no doubt that the Vatican’s motivation in seeking these talks is laudable, hoping to improve the lives of Catholics trapped in the current status quo of having to decide whether to be faithful to Christ or faithful to Xi. However, allowing Beijing to muddy that distinction and push Catholics toward a cult of personality and away from Christ does them no favors in the long run. China has made its purpose to the contrary very plain. The Vatican’s decision to put aside these talks may be belated, but it’s at least a step in the right direction of confronting evil rather than attempting to compromise with it.



“We are heartbroken” — British toddler at centre of legal battle dies

April 28, 2018

Terminally-ill British toddler Alfie Evans died on Saturday after doctors withdrew life support, the child’s parents said, following a protracted legal battle and a campaign that drew support from Pope Francis.

© AFP/File | Tom Evans had asked supporters, who have staged a series of vigils outside the hospital, to go home

“Our baby grew his wings tonight at 2:30am (0130 GMT). We are heartbroken. Thank you everyone for all your support,” the mother, Kate James, wrote on Facebook.

The father, Thomas Evans, said: “My gladiator lay down his shield and gained his wings at 0230. Absolutely heartbroken. I LOVE YOU MY GUY”.

The parents had fought to take their son, who had a degenerative neurological condition, out of a hospital in Liverpool in northwest England to a clinic in Rome but lost a final court appeal on Wednesday.

Doctors had already removed life support on Monday after the parents lost a previous appeal to keep him alive despite doctors’ recommendations.

Pope Francis intervened several times in a case that attracted worldwide attention, particularly in Italy and Poland.

Earlier this week the pontiff wrote on Twitter that he hoped the parents’ “desire to seek new forms of treatment may be granted”.

Thomas Evans had met the pope in the Vatican and asked him to “save our son”.

Italy had also granted citizenship to the toddler in the hope of facilitating his transfer to the Bambino Gesu (Baby Jesus) paediatric hospital in Rome.

The father on Thursday had asked supporters, who have staged a series of vigils outside the hospital where the baby was being treated, to go home.

He said he was grateful for all the support but asked people “to return back to your everyday lives and allow myself, Kate and Alder Hey to form a relationship, build a bridge and walk across it”.

“We also wish to thank Alder Hey staff at every level for their dignity and professionalism during what must be an incredibly difficult time for them too,” he added.

Medical staff have been subjected to severe online abuse and police officers have had to be deployed outside the hospital because of angry protests as the case progressed.

The case is the latest in a series of high-profile battles between parents of ill children and the British authorities.

British law states that parents “cannot demand a particular treatment to be continued where the burdens of the treatment clearly outweigh the benefits for the child”.

If agreement cannot be reached between the parents and the healthcare professionals, “a court should be asked to make a declaration about whether the provision of life-sustaining treatment would benefit the child”.

The most recent example was that of Charlie Gard, who was born in August 2016 with a rare form of mitochondrial disease.

He died last year, one week short of his first birthday, after doctors withdrew life support treatment.

Gard’s parents fought a five-month legal battle for him to be taken to the United States for experimental treatment.

The parents of Ashya King defied professionals in 2014 when they snatched their cancer-stricken son from a British hospital and took him to Prague for proton beam therapy.

King, now eight years old, has since been declared clear of the disease.

© 2018 AFP

Vatican urged not to sign ‘devil’s pact’ with China

April 14, 2018

‘IMMORAL’: China follows ‘Xi Jinping Thought,’ a Chung Hua University professor told a Taipei forum, while a researcher said China still persecutes because of religion

By Shih Hsiao-kuang and Sherry Hsiao  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer
Taipei Times

Academics attending a forum in Taipei yesterday urged the Pope not to choose a “devil’s pact” with the “modern theocratic government” that is China.

A “modern theocracy” has already formed in China, Chung Hua University Department of Public Administration associate professor Tseng Chien-yuan (曾建元) told the forum hosted by the Cross-Strait Policy Association.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) uses so-called “Xi Jinping Thought” (習近平思想) to command the psychology of Chinese and anyone who might challenge the party-state’s authority is kept under strict control, he said.

According to China’s newly amended Regulations on Religious Affairs (宗教事務條例), any religious groups unwilling to register would receive “unsystematic” treatment, he said.

The standard for the CCP’s so-called “Sinicization of religion” would be set by the CCP, he said.

By making a “devil’s deal” with the CCP, Pope Francis would be betraying the Catholics and advocates of religious freedom who have been persecuted by the CCP, he added.

The key to religious persecution by the CCP today does not lie in a dispute between theism and atheism, but rather in the CCP’s view of faith groups as potentially hostile forces, said Wu Renhua (吳仁華), a visiting academic at Soochow University’s Chang Fo-chuan Center for the Study of Human Rights who also attended the forum.

If these believers were to become political opposition groups, it would have a considerable impact on the CCP regime, he said, adding that the CCP has therefore always persecuted religious groups since its founding.

Catholics aside, the number of Christians in China has in recent years increased to more than 100 million, Wu said, adding that this has made them key targets of CCP attacks.

If the Vatican gives up on a free Taiwan and establishes diplomatic relations with China, the church would be making a “foolish” move, Wu said.

Moreover, such a move would not be in line with the interests of Chinese Catholics, but would be an abandonment of their sense of morality, Wu said.

The Vatican would be making an immoral decision, he added.

China-Vatican relations are at times real and at times fake, Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen (董立文) said.

Image may contain: 1 person, sitting

Taiwan Thinktank researcher Tung Li-wen, right, speaks at a forum organized by the Cross-Strait Policy Association in Taipei

It is true that the Vatican wants to establish diplomatic relations with China because it cannot overlook the potential number of believers in China, Tung said.

However, the two states have been unable to establish diplomatic relations because the CCP fears religious freedom, he said.

The CCP was originally atheist, but in recent years it has loosened its grip and allowed religious belief while still maintaining a high level of control over the staffing, organization and property of religious groups, Tung said.

However, after Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) took office, he further clamped down on religion, Tung said.

Citing observations made by the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, Tung said the CCP was not soft in its curtailment of religious belief last year.

The CCP’s persecution of church members included arrests, house arrests and limitations on the participation of underaged people in churches, he said, adding that there were more than 100 victims last year.

It also forcibly removed crosses, forced churches to relocate and cut off churches’ power and water supply, Tung said, adding that more than 100 churches were affected.

If the Roman Curia wants to establish diplomatic relations with China, it must submit to the CCP, Tung said.

“If it does, how will Catholics around the world view the Vatican?” Tung asked.


Who Made Xi Jinping Pope?

A Vatican-China deal is imminent. Millions of Chinese Catholics should be afraid.

Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006.
Cardinal Joseph Zen of Hong Kong (L) celebrates a mass in Rome, May 31, 2006. PHOTO: PATRICK HERTZOG/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Ever since the red flag rose over China in 1949, Roman Catholics there have suffered because of their fidelity to the pope in Rome. Now the Holy Father himself has become a source of tribulation. In its eagerness to reach a deal with China, the Vatican is elevating the persecutors over the persecuted.

Xi Jinping, an atheist and hard-line communist, became leader of China in 2012. The Chinese government has since stepped up its violations of human rights, including religious freedom. This is no accident. In 2016 President Xi declared that all party members should be “firm Marxist atheists and never find any of their beliefs in any religion.” The following year, in a speech that emphasized the dominance of the Communist Party over all Chinese life, he said the government would work to “Sinicize” religion—a euphemism for total control over the faith.

Against this backdrop, for some reason Pope Francis and his Vatican diplomatic corps think now is a good time to deal with Beijing. Given Mr. Xi’s view that religion is often a cover for anti-regime activities, it is hard to see him accommodating anything other than total surrender. Fortunately for Mr. Xi, Pope Francis is on the other side of the table.

As this newspaper reported Feb. 1, the pope “has decided to accept the legitimacy of seven Catholic bishops appointed by the Chinese government.” This means the pope will no longer have full control over his bishops. The power will go instead to atheist bureaucrats determined to suppress religion, with the pope’s role in appointing bishops reduced to a veto over their selection. The pope got almost nothing in return from his Chinese counterparts, and he is also being mocked. News reports allege that at least two of the seven excommunicated bishops selected by China have had relationships with women and even fathered children.

This appalls Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was born in Shanghai in 1932 and was bishop of Hong Kong from 2002-09. He has plenty of firsthand experience tussling with Chinese communists. He has negotiated the release of priests and bishops imprisoned in China, while raising funds abroad for the families of the persecuted. He was also under constant surveillance for his role in Hong Kong’s democracy movement. Few understand the true nature of a communist regime as well as he does.

Late last year, the cardinal told me of the Vatican’s effort to compel two good and faithful bishops to retire to make way for men chosen by Beijing. “Imagine what the communists think?” he asked. “They must be laughing at us.” Last month Cardinal Zen flew to Rome to make a personal appeal to the pope. He was ignored.

The pope’s dealings with similar regimes, notably Cuba and Venezuela, do not inspire confidence. Perhaps he dreams of becoming the first pope to celebrate Mass in Tiananmen Square. That would make for a powerful image. But the hard-liners in Beijing are not naive. They are very conscious of the church’s role in communism’s fall, especially in Poland.

Because the Vatican wants a deal more than Beijing does, the Holy See has negotiated from a weak position. “If the Holy Father gives up enough, they will take it, but the communists will offer nothing of substance in return,” Cardinal Zen says. If there is a deal, it will no doubt be the first of many surrenders. Perhaps the churches in Hong Kong and Taiwan will be next.

Do the pope and his diplomats really think Mr. Xi is merely going through the motions when he imprisons priests and bishops? Consider that China is in the midst of a military buildup, a multitrillion-dollar economic expansion across Asia and Africa, and a revival of aggressive communist ideology at home. No one should expect a resurgent China to honor a deal with the Vatican.

The proposed deal also needlessly deepens pre-existing divisions. Catholics in China currently belong to either the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association—a government-controlled church—or the underground church. The deal requires all underground bishops to join the government church, though not necessarily with their current title, or resign. It also forces all the priests and faithful in the underground church to join the CPCA. Anyone who doesn’t comply could face arrest for illegal activity, all while being declared disobedient by the Vatican.

Knowing that the Holy Father was on their side helped millions of Chinese Catholics—including Cardinal Zen—through their darkest days. But now they have to wonder about the Holy See’s judgment. Perhaps the only real hope for the Catholic faithful in China is that an aggressive and emboldened Beijing will insist on further capitulations. Maybe that would finally get the pope to walk from a deal.

Mr. Simon is an executive with Next Digital in Hong Kong.


A crane winching a large red cross from one Guantou’s three domes

A crane winches a large red cross from one of three domes on the Guantou church in Wenzhou