06/01/2006, 00.00
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Card. Zen: Government told Patriotic Association to stop illicit ordinations

The cardinal yesterday took possession of his titular church, Holy Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, in Rome. The Chinese government "has warned Liu Bainian, but should illicit ordinations continue, links will be completely severed".

Rome (AsiaNews) – The government of China has asked the Patriotic Association to stop Episcopal ordinations without the consent of the Holy See, said Cardinal Joseph Zen. The Cardinal was speaking after celebrating Mass to take possession of his titular church in Rome. The Cardinal said the Patriotic Association (PA) "was fomenting dissent between the Chinese government and the Vatican" but was "defeating itself" in doing so.

Cardinal Zen, a champion of religious freedom in China, said "he could not tell whether the Chinese government would ever allow Pope Benedict XVI to visit the country". However, he added: "If they insist on keeping this abnormal situation and make it impossible for the pope to go there, they are defeating themselves."

Mgr Zen, created a cardinal in the Consistory of 24 March last, became a "priest of Rome" with the titular church of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore (Holy Mary, Mother of the Redeemer) at Tor Bella Monaca [in the southern part of the Italian capital]. Around 150 people attended his first Mass in his new church, including parishioners, who described him as "dynamic and well prepared". At the start of the celebration, Cardinal Zen greeted the congregation and said he was representing "the great Chinese people who are still suffering for their faith".

In recent weeks, the Patriotic Association decided to go ahead with some ordinations without papal approval.

The Holy See responded by issuing a strong statement, recalling that such acts invited excommunication latae sententiae, and that they created an obstacle to eventual dialogue with China. The Patriotic Association wanted "it to be a slap in the face, but actually, they were defeated by the clear statement of the Holy See, to which the government responded very mildly", continued Cardinal Zen.

The Chinese neo-cardinal said this low-key response meant that the government "has accepted this new evolution of the situation". He added: "The Chinese government had clearly told Liu Bainian [PA vice-chairman] to stop these ordinations. But should more illicit ordinations be celebrated, the Holy See will have to announce the rupture of all negotiations with Beijing."

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