Hong Kong (AsiaNews) - "This is the one who fights with a 'sling'," said the pope when he greeted Hong Kong's Bishop Emeritus Card Joseph Zen Ze-kiun after the beatification Mass of Paul VI, wrote the bishop himself in his Chinese-language blog.
The pontiff's choice of words, the prelate said, was a reference to his involvement in the pro-democracy Occupy Central movement, which has been pushing for democracy in the former British colony for the past couple of years.
For almost a month, hundreds of students and protesters have been blocking key areas in Hong Kong in order to push for genuine political and electoral reforms ahead of the election for the post of chief executive scheduled for 2017. Hong Kong authorities have responded by dismissing protesters' demands for changes to China's plan to vet and chose the candidates.
By contrast, in July 2013, the Diocese of Hong Kong issued a paper backing civil disobedience, whilst its Justice and Peace Commission explained why it was in favour of the movement. and despite his advanced age, Bishop Emeritus Card Zen got directly involved in the protest movement.
Under the scorching sun last June, the 83-year-old (next January) walked for 84 hours to urge people to vote in an unofficial referendum on universal suffrage.
Last but not least, he stayed overnight in the streets with the students who have occupied key areas in the city for nearly a month.
In Rome for the closing of the Synod on the family and the beatification of Pope Paul VI, the bishop met with the Holy Father.
"After the beatification Mass, Pope Francis took off his vestment and greeted Pope emeritus Benedict XVI and the cardinals. [. . .] I queued in the line and thought of a few words to speak to the Pope, in order not to waste his time.
"I prepared to tell the Pope, 'the Holy Father, I come from the 'battlefield' in Hong Kong. You may probably know that. Please pray for us, that violence might not happen."
As he is wont to do, the pontiff surprised him. "Finally, I came in front of the Pope. Before I could speak, he laughed and said, 'Ah! Ah! This is the one who fights with a 'sling'. I hurried to say the words I had prepared. I kissed his hand and then left, so as not to hold up the queue."
"It sounded like the pope was quoting someone else's words, did he mock me?" Card Zen wondered. "I think not. He knew David defeated the Giant Goliath. He was encouraging me: "Do not be afraid, the God of Israel is with David."
This exchange "made me think twice. David was then a youth. Isn't he a symbol to our students? I hope those students will remember that neither youth nor a stone, but God's help enabled David to defeat the giant."