01/13/2006, 00.00
HONG KONG – VATICAN
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Police send letter to Pope complaining about Bishop Zen who makes light of it

Police complain about bishop's support for South Korean farmers arrested during WTO meeting in Hong Kong. Bishop says they could have talked to him before writing to the Pope. He reveals he, too, is writing to the Holy Father.

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – "I would encourage them [the police] to [. . .] hold a public conversation with me; [. . .] a letter to the Pope would also be good," said Mgr Joseph Zen Ze-kiu, Bishop of Hong Kong in a letter sent today to the South China Morning Post which AsiaNews received as a preview. The letter is a response to Tony Liu Kit-ming, chief of the Territory's police, who yesterday said that he wanted to write an open letter to Pope Benedict XVI to complain about the prelate's solidarity and support for South Korean farmers arrested during the last meeting of World Trade Organisation (WTO) which was held in Hong Kong.

"As a Hong Kong person, I feel ashamed. I want to apologise to the Korean farmers. What the Hong Kong police leaders have done is not appropriate," Bishop Zen had said on December 18 when 150 South Korean farmers staged a sit-in.

He later sought to clarify his position by saying he appreciated the way frontline police officers had carried out their duties during the international economic summit, adding that they were not the target of his earlier criticism, only the arrests were.

The Police Inspectors' Association dropped plans to hold a public discussion with the bishop saying that "it would be confrontational. [. . .] Instead, they will write an open letter to Pope Benedict."

In his response today, which is his birthday, Bishop Zen encourages the Association to a dialogue because "a frank conversation may not necessarily be confrontational, but can well be useful to clear up misunderstandings."

He stresses that sending a letter to the Pope is a good idea. But with a good touch of irony he also notes that he, too, is writing "to the Holy Father today" about his retirement.

"According to the canon law, I am supposed to retire from my office next year today," he writes. But "[m]y letter is to remind the Holy See of the need to secure my successor. Sometimes the Holy Father may invite retiring bishops to stay on for another couple of years, but I have insisted in my letter that this is the time for me to retire."

He ends his letter saying: "I have no knowledge about the proposed letter by the Police. I may disagree with it, yet I should be appreciative if it does try to convince the Holy Father to accept my imminent retirement."

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