Card. Zen in audience with Pope: 'I continue my ministry in prisons'
Francis wanted to receive the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong in private audience before his forced departure due to the expiration of the permission granted by the judges. "I hope one day you will be able to visit the shrine of Sheshan," the cardinal told the pontiff. Meanwhile, also in Xi'an, the see that was once held by the great Chinese bishop Anthony Li Duan, his successor presides over a solemn Mass of suffrage for Benedict XVI.
Rome (AsiaNews) - Before his forced departure this morning for Hong Kong, Pope Francis wanted to receive Card. Joseph Zen Ze-chiun.
The meeting took place at the Vatican's Casa Santa Marta, as reported by Jesuit magazine America by the cardinal, who will be 91 years old in a few days, Jan. 13.
Card. Zen went on trial a few weeks ago after an arrest in May for an affair intertwined with the infamous National Security Law: he was sentenced to a fine for failing to report a fund to assist victims of the 2019 protest crackdown, but he still had his passport seized and was only able to travel to Rome to Benedict XVI's funeral on the strength of a very brief permit granted by the judge.
Speaking to America magazine, Card. Zen - an extremely frank figure in his disagreement with the Provisional Agreement on the Appointment of Bishops signed by the Holy See with Beijing and renewed last October - spoke of friendly talks with Pope Francis.
While keeping the contents confidential, he spoke of thanking the pontiff for giving "a good bishop" to Hong Kong (Msgr. Stephen Chow Sau-yan, appointed in 2021).
He also told the pope about his pastoral ministry among inmates in Hong Kong prisons, a pastoral work he has been doing for more than 10 years. He also recounted that he has baptized a number of inmates over these years and continues this ministry to this day.
In Hong Kong there are currently more than 1,300 people in prison or correctional institutions for political offenses related to the 2019 demonstrations against the National Security Act.
Francis then showed Card. Zen a statue of Our Lady of Sheshan - the Marian image venerated in the Shanghai shrine - received as a gift on the day of his election and which he keeps in his room.
Card. Zen - who is a native of Shanghai, from where his family fled after the advent of Mao's Communists - replied to him, "I hope that one day you will be able to visit the shrine."
Meanwhile, significant testimonies continue to arrive from Mainland China of the affection with which Chinese Catholics have remembered the figure of Benedict XVI and his love for their country.
In the historic city of Xi'an, in Shaanxi State, Bishop Anthony Dang Mingyan - successor to the great rebuilder of Catholicism in China, Msgr. Anthony Li Duan whom Pope Ratzinger himself invited to attend the Synod on the Eucharist in 2005 - held a solemn Mass of suffrage at St. Francis Cathedral (see photo 3) on the day of his funeral at the Vatican.
The Chinese Catholic website xinde.org reports that all celebrants bowed three times before the image of Pope Benedict. "He faithfully fulfilled his mission," Msgr. Dang Mingyan said as he called the faithful to prayer. Suffrage celebrations in memory of Benedict XVI were also held in churches in other dioceses in Shaanxi.