09/24/2009, 00.00
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Cardinal Zen calls on China to release imprisoned bishops on its 60th anniversary

by James Wang
The prelate’s proposal is made on the website of the Diocese of Hong Kong. Zen praises Hu’s remarks on promoting democracy and solidarity, urges the Chinese government to hold talks with the Holy See.
Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – In a message for the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Card Joseph Zen, the bishop emeritus of Honk Kong called on Chinese President Hu Jintao to free all Catholic bishops in prison.

In his message, which was made public yesterday on the website of the Diocese of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen said: “After 60 years since the founding of the People’s Republic of China, the time has come for its leaders to be courageous and correct past mistakes by releasing religious leaders who were deprived of their freedom (from Su Zhimin [bishop of Baoding (Hebei)], seized decades ago to Mgr Jia Zhi Guo [bishop of Zhengding], detained last March). This is the time for leaders to step down from their high places and directly engage our bishops in dialogue because they are the real heads of the Church.”

For the prelate, the government in Beijing should “sit down at the [negotiation] table with the Holy See and with sincerity find ways that are mutually acceptable to consult each other and live in harmony.”

In his message, Cardinal Zen praised some of Hu Jintao’s words for raising some hope.  Speaking before the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) on 20 September, Mr Hu had said that this institution was designed to “better carry forward democracy, strengthen solidarity and resolve contradictions”.  This, the prelate said, “is what the people expect from the state”.

“I could not avoid applauding,” the cardinal explained, when he heard Hu say that the CPPCC should promote the harmonious development of “relations with religions” and with “compatriots both at home and abroad.” The CPPCC “should uphold the principle that man is at the centre, listen to the voice of the people [. . .], and explain the social situation and public opinion, offering advice and suggestions.”

For Cardinal Zen, when Hu speaks about “relations with religion,” he is referring to what Benedict XVI also wants as when he said: “I hope that the faithful in China can live in peace their life of faith, and contribute [to the development] of their homeland.”

According to Cardinal Zen, Hu’s programme is an “”unprecedented challenge . . . but also a great opportunity.”

Unfortunately, in China “some (opportunists) only pursue their own immediate interests and do not want to give up” centre stage and power, he said.

They are “only concerned with hanging onto power and [protect] their own interest without concern with the real interest and policies of the state.” All this leads to a “stalemate” and to delays that cause damage.

The cardinal is referring here to unspecified “ultra leftist” figures who still want to oppose the Christian faith to patriotism, but it is not hard to see that these (unnamed) individuals are in fact top officials in the country’s patriotic associations and the Ministry of Religious Affairs.

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