03/09/2006, 00.00
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Cardinal Zen's response to the Patriotic Association

Charges by Patriotic Association Vice-Chairman Anthony Liu Bainian that Mgr Zen's appointment to cardinal constitutes a "hostile act" against China is a view not shared by Chinese Catholics, and probably not even by the Chinese government. The association is not working for social harmony and the good of the Church—it sees diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Holy See as a threat.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – In response to "a surprising statement" made by Liu Bainian in an interview with Reuters in which he "speaks like Benedict XVI's judge", Mgr Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the newly-appointed cardinal from Hong Kong, wrote a  letter which AsiaNews reprints in its entirety.

Mr. Liu Bai Nian, the vice-chairman of the Chinese Patriotic Association, member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, in an interview to Reuters poised himself as the judge of Pope Benedict XVI, saying, on the one hand, that he appreciates the Pope's traditional position in matters of faith, but on the other hand, criticized his elevation of Bishop Zen to the Cardinalate as an act of hostility towards China.

After the rather mild reaction by the spokesman of the Foreign Office and by the Foreign Minister himself, this reaction of Mr. Liu sounds a little surprising. It shows how worried he is with the prospect of a normalization of relations between China and the Holy See.

Mr. Liu said that Bishop Zen is a threat to the Beijing Government, just as Pope John Paul II was to the communist regime in Poland. Apart from the implied underestimation of Chinese leaders, to compare China and Poland is an act of farfetched imagination. The clergy of the official church in China in the past decades have shown so much patient endurance in the face of all sorts of harassments. Is there any reason to be afraid of them?

It is obvious that Catholics do not accept Communism, because of its atheistic premises. Not even the Government, however, would force the believers to accept Communism, because the National Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom. When Bishop Zen criticizes certain policies of the Government, he is not challenging the Government itself. By the way, before this nomination to be a Cardinal, his plan, after his retirement next year, would have been to go back to Shanghai to teach in the local Seminary, where he would abstain from making public statements, just as he did during the years between 1989 and 1996.

Mr. Liu presents himself as the representative of the official church, but if freedom were granted to the bishops, priests, and faithful to speak out, one would hear views that are very different from those expressed by Mr. Liu. Mr. Liu recognizes that more and more the Catholics of China want to reestablish the communion with the Holy See and more and more they want the bishops to have the approval of the Holy Father. If he really loves his country, he should persuade the Government to allow all this for the sake of harmony in society, so that our Government leaders may raise their head on the international stage of human rights.

By now, everybody knows that the Holy See is ready to switch the diplomatic relations from Taiwan to Beijing, so there is no need to dwell on this point. The diplomatic relations are surely a political matter, but the Holy See has no political aim in mind, even less political ambitions. The only hope of the Holy Father is that the Chinese faithful may enjoy real religious freedom.

It has been often said that Bishop Zen operates under the influence of foreign powers. There is nothing more ridiculous than this for those who live with him under the same roof day and night. Is it too much to hope that our leaders may finally discern who are those who truly love their country and those who betray the real interests of the Country.

As for the biblical saying "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's", we do not think Mr. Liu is a more competent interpreter than the Pope. I will not repeat here the distinction between power politics and the participation in social matters which is a duty and a right of every adult person, Cardinals included.

Bishop Zen reminds himself and Mr. Liu that both are above seventy years of age and the day is not far away when they will have to meet the Heavenly Judge. May this thought counsel more wisdom in all their decisions! 

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