03/09/2006, 00.00
HONG KONG - CHINA – VATICAN
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Patriotic Association criticizes Zen, belying itself and government

The neo-cardinal: "Li has poised himself as the judge of Benedict XVI" and "presents himself as the representative of the official Church, but if freedom were granted to the bishops, priests, and faithful to speak out, one may hear views that are very different from his."

Rome (AsiaNews) – "An act of hostility to China", is how Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, described the appointment as cardinal of Mgr Zen, bishop of Hong Kong. In a statement received in advance by AsiaNews, the Hong Kong bishop said: "With this statement, Liu has poised himself as the judge of Pope Benedict XVI."

The statement made by the vice-chairman of the Patriotic Association also repudiate what he himself said on 23 February, the day after Benedict XVI announced the consistory. On that day, he told the South China Morning Post: "If the new cardinal would like to visit mainland China and help rebuild Sino-Vatican relations, he would be welcomed."

The neo-cardinal, for his part, said Liu's words were "surprising, in view of what the spokesman of China's Foreign Ministry and the minister himself said". Mgr Zen was referring to a statement made two days ago by Li Zhaoxing, China's Foreign Minister, about his appointment: "Hong Kong is China's Hong Kong, and its people are our compatriots. China is happy to see the achievements made by these compatriots."

Li's statement ended with the usual refrain of all government pronouncements on ties with the Vatican: the rupture of all diplomatic ties with the "rebel province" Taiwan, and the Vatican's non-interference in the country's internal affairs. Mgr Zen said: "By now, everybody knows the Holy See is ready to switch from Taiwan to Beijing. Diplomatic relations are surely a political matter, but the Holy See has no interest in such matters and even less political ambitions. The only hope of the Holy Father is that the Chinese faithful may enjoy real religious freedom."

The interview given by the Patriotic Association's vice-chairman, continued the neo-cardinal, "shows how worried he is about the prospect of normalization of relations between China and the Holy See…  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 his."

This affirmation is confirmed by many messages received by AsiaNews after the announcement of the consistory and the appointment of new cardinals, made by the Pope on 22 February. "We are very happy Mgr Zen has been made into a cardinal and we rejoice for the Church," wrote Mgr Li Side, the unofficial bishop of Tianjin. "We thank the Lord and the Holy Spirit. Long live Benedict XVI!"

And Mgr Wei Jingyi, unofficial bishop of Qiqihar, told AsiaNews: "Mgr Zen's appointment as cardinal shows the attention of the Pope for the Chinese nation and the Church in China. It is a gesture of friendship and I believe it could play a positive role in relations between China and the Vatican and in the development of the Chinese Church."

"Liu Bainian recognizes that more and more the Catholics of China want to reestablish the communion with the Holy See and they want their bishops to have the approval of the Holy Father," continued the bishop of Hong Kong. "If he really loves his country, he should persuade the Government to allow all this for the sake of harmony in society."

And the bishop's closing words: "I want to remind that Bishop Zen as well as Liu are both over 70 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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