04/10/2009, 00.00
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Card Zen’s last pastoral letter to the Church of Hong Kong and China

by James Wang
The cardinal sends a touching message to Hong Kong Catholics in support of the persecuted Church of China. He thanks priests, nuns and the faithful, with a special greeting to new Christians who will be baptised on Easter night.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – Card Joseph Zen bids his diocese farewell in a pastoral letter issued on the occasion of Easter, one which he describes more as a “family letter” in which he remembers the 12 years he spent at the helm of the Hong Kong Bishopric and talks about his dedication to the persecuted Church of China.

The letter begins with a brief account of the activities of a committee, of which he is a member, set up by the Holy See concerning the Church in China whose focus is “the heavy cross being carried by our brothers and sisters in the mainland over the past 50 years.”

“The Church in China, the Church to which we belong, has had no freedom for over 50 years and has been persecuted. News came to us during our meeting that Bishop Jia Zhiguo, of Zhengding (Shijiazhuang), was arrested,” he wrote.

In retiring the prelate said that he will be able to devote more of his time to the Chinese Church which “needs our concern and care. The fact that the pope made me a cardinal also indicates that he wants me to help him in this area.”

“God is leading us in wonderful ways, his hand holds our hand, a hand that bears the mark of the nail, now no longer causing pain, but shining in glory forever.”

After thanking priests, nuns, men and women religious, seminarians and all of his faithful, he added: “God is not far away nor high above. He is in our midst. He is by our side. He is in our hearts. With him, we have the strength to carry our crosses in sickness, poverty, loneliness or persecution. With him, we are able to help those on the journey by our side to carry their crosses. With him, we are able to help our brothers and sisters in the mainland walk the way of the cross until the end.”

“Dear brothers and sisters; do not be afraid. We believe in the saviour, who is risen. The last word is not death, but life, the true life, the fullness of life, the eternal life. Peace be with you!”

“All you new Christians, who will be celebrating their baptism during the Easter Vigil, welcome to our big family. During the Scrutinies [of the catechumens] I had the opportunity to get a foretaste of your joy. Always keep the joy of baptism. You have joined a community of human beings, a community of sinners. Bear with one another. But this community is the Mystical Body of Christ. The grace of God is always in our midst. He loves you.”

“May the Holy Mother Mary keep you that you may persevere until the end.”

The official announcement of Cardinal Zen’s retirement should be made after Easter.

His successor is Mgr John Tong Hon.

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