01/08/2007, 00.00
VATICAN - CHINA
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Card. Zen: “No openings for religious freedom in China”

Speaking to AsiaNews about the address of Benedict XVI to the diplomatic corps, the bishop of Hong Kong said the pope expressed “the desire for religious freedom, a good that should not be feared.” Commenting on the pope’s angelus address on 26 December, Cardinal Zen recalled the pope’s nearness to the suffering of the unofficial church and stressed that martyrdom is a glorious act laden with meaning.

Rome (AsiaNews) – The new year is a “crucial moment for the complicated situation facing the Church in China” however it does not look as if, “humanly speaking, there are any openings.” The speech of the pope to the diplomatic corps this morning is thus “a right appeal for religious freedom that the country still does not have but that should not be feared.”

 

This was the reaction, given to AsiaNews, of Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, to the address of Benedict XVI to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See.

 

The pope said: “In most Asian countries, Christian communities tend to be small but lively, with a legitimate desire to be able to live and act in a climate of religious liberty. This is not only a primordial right but it is a condition that will enable them to contribute to the material and spiritual progress of society, and to be sources of cohesion and harmony.”

 

For Mgr Zen, the pontiff’s was a “desire that has been expressed for a long time, but when the pope says he hopes for more religious freedom, he underlines that this is not there yet. The hope is that all will truly understand that religious freedom is a good thing and a right that should not be feared. Undermining this right damages all society.”

 

This is especially true for China where “humanly it seems very difficult to emerge from the complicated situation that has been created between the official and unofficial Church and the Patriotic Association. Naturally, faith encourages us to hope. This is a crucial moment but conditions leading to a swift triumph of good are poor.”

 

A few days ago, in the Sunday Examiner, a weekly issued by the diocese of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen talked about the persecution submitted by the Church in China and of the nearness of the pope to the faithful who were persecuted.

In an opinion piece under his name, he “re-read” the Angelus address delivered by Benedict XVI on 26 December to mark the feast of St Stephen, the first martyr of the Church. Talking about persecution, the pontiff expressed his “spiritual closeness” to “those Catholics who keep their loyalty to Peter's Seat without yielding to compromise, sometimes at the price of grave suffering.” Benedict XVI said “within the Church, martyrdom is not a reason to be sad but one of 'spiritual enthusiasm'” that “always draws new Christians”.

 

In his opinion piece, Cardinal Zen said: “Somebody [from the official church – ed.] recently told the faithful of the unofficial Church: ‘Compromise is intelligent. We are in communion with the Holy See and we are recognised by the government, which gives us much, and we can care for our flock. Your people prefer to be put in prison, to be martyrs and by doing so you abandon your flock..."

 

The cardinal continued: “What an absurd way to talk, what a short-sighted way of looking at things! The words of the Holy Father have removed the clouds, we can see again the splendour of truth; that martyrdom is meaningful, martyrdom is glorious! Compromise is compromise and cannot last forever. To be in communion with the Holy Father and to remain in a Church that declares itself to be independent, is a contradiction. The Holy See magnanimously tolerates that. We accept it with humiliation.”

 

Cardinal Zen closed his article by saying: “Now is high time to abandon that contradiction and let everybody know that we Catholics want to be Catholic and be in communion with all Catholics of the world, under the leadership of the Bishop of Rome.”

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