03/26/2006, 00.00
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Card. Zen: My red hat for the blood and tears of the Church in China

The neo-cardinal's message to Chinese Catholics, broadcast by Vatican Radio. The openness of Mgr Lajolo.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – In a message to Chinese Catholics, the neo-Cardinal Joseph Zen exhorted them to be "patient", although the country does not enjoy full freedom of worship yet. He said the red colour of his vestments recalled "the tears and blood of numerous, nameless, heroes of the Church" in China. These words were part of a homily given by the Cardinal yesterday in a Mass celebrated in Chinese and broadcast by Vatican Radio. He said: "My becoming a cardinal shows how much the Pope values people in China. The red colour I am wearing is meant to signify a cardinal's willingness to shed blood. Yet it is not my blood that has been shed: it is the blood and the tears from the numerous, nameless, heroes in both the official and underground churches who have suffered for being faithful to the church." He added that although there is not yet full religious freedom in the country, Chinese Catholics should be patient, helping to build a harmonious society and working for the "maturity" of the nation.

The concept of a "harmonious society" is one of the leitmotiv of President Hu Jintao, who aims to calm China's current conflicts, reconciling social tensions and the gap between the rich and the poor, cities and rural areas. Cardinal Zen's reference to this theme of a "harmonious society", intended to convey to China that the call for full religious freedom of the Church in China, and his own appointment as Cardinal, do not constitute "a hostile act" against the country. Rather they represent one of the necessary steps for Beijing to reach reconciliation at home, given the widespread faith renewal under way in Chinese society. Cardinal Zen even expressed hope in his homily directed towards Catholics of China: "Winter has passed, and spring has come. The seeds you have sown with tears will bear fruit very soon."

Yesterday, in an interview with the South China Morning Post, Mgr Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican Secretary for Relations with other States, reaffirmed that the appointment of Zen – seen by some of the leadership and the Patriotic Association as a "troublemaker" – as cardinal the great Chinese tradition, and the role of modern China in today's society". Mgr Lajolo also affirmed that the "time was ripe" to overcome differences and to open dialogue aimed at establishing full diplomatic relations. In another interview with I-cable television of Hong Kong, he said he trusted in "an opening of the spirit of the supreme authorities of the People's Republic of China, who cannot ignore the expectations of their people, as well as the signs of the times."

Mgr Lajolo added that Benedict XVI wanted to visit China soon, perhaps before the 2008 Olympics.

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