Vatican City (AsiaNews) - Benedict XVI today accepted the resignation of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, S.D.B, bishop of Hong Kong, presented in conformity with Canon 401 § 1 of the code of Canon Law, because he has reached the age limit. He will be succeeded by Bishop John Tong Hon, currently the coadjutor of the same diocese.
Cardinal Zen, 77, was supposed to retire two years ago, but Pope Benedict XVI accepted his resignation only last December. Several times he said the pope had asked him to continue to follow the situation of the Church in China. The prelate has fought several battles in defence of religious freedom and against state interference in the internal affairs of Church, in matters like the appointment of bishops.
In his latest intervention he called on mainland bishops to be more courageous and follow the Pope’s lead, standing against the influence and rhetoric of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. (CCPA).
In a brief interview with the South China Morning Post in March, CCPA Chairman Anthony Liu Bainian said that he hoped that Cardinal Zen’s successor, Coadjutor Bishop John Tong Hon, would be more malleable and patriotic like Cardinal Zen’s predecessor, Card John Baptist Wu Cheng-chung.
Bishop Tong was appointed auxiliary bishop of Hong Kong in 1996 at the same time as the cardinal, and has always expressed his support for what he calls Cardinal Zen’s “excellent” work. In his message to the diocese when he was appointed coadjutor in January 2008 he stressed the role played by the Church of Hong Kong as a bridge to the mainland. "It is my great expectation,” he said, “that the Chinese government will guarantee full religious freedom for Catholics on the mainland, so that they can make greater contributions to society, and in this way our motherland would also enhance its international status."