My appointment is a sign of the Pope's goodwill towards China, says new Cardinal Zen

Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – For Mgr Zen, his becoming a cardinal is due to one factor: "The Pope loves China". Speaking to AsiaNews a few minutes after his appointment was officially announced, the bishop of Hong Kong said: "I have not yet personally met the Pope, but we worked together on the Synod on the Eucharist for three weeks. I wrote to him in November and he answered by way of hand-written letter that was very affectionate". Moved, he said that "this appointment is a sign of the Pope's goodwill and love for the whole of China."

Cardinal Zen has just turned 75 and for some time he had been talking about retiring. "Now everything changes," he said. "I had made my plans. I almost 75 and was thinking about retirement. Now it won't happen . . . We'll respect our marching orders. Perhaps the Pope will need some advice from time to time. On China there will be a lot of work to do."

As a simple priest, in the past Mgr Zen spent a lot of time in Chinese seminaries and so acquired a profound understanding of the official and underground Church in China.

The Pope's appointment applies also to Hong Kong where Cardinal Zen has been involved for quite some time in a struggle for universal suffrage and in defence of Catholic schools from government interference. For his dogged stand on such issues, some political decision-makers and even some of his priests criticised him.

"This appointment is a mark of approval for what I have done so far, a confirmation that we have not lost our bearings. The Pope knows all about the positions we have taken. This decision is reassuring as well a indication of support."