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Zen Disagrees with Criticism against Pope's Political Agenda

In the light of his appointment as cardinal, the Bishop of Hong Kong disagreed with the accusation of the Patriotic Association against the pope for constituting a 'hostile act' against China.
( [email protected] ) Mar 09, 2006 02:27 PM EST

In the light of his appointment as cardinal, the Bishop of Hong Kong disagreed with the accusation of the Patriotic Association against the pope for constituting a "hostile act" against China.

Anthony Liu Bainian, vice chairman of the Patriotic Association - the official Catholic Church in China- last week criticized Pope Benedict XVI’s elevation of Bishop Joseph Zen to cardinal during an interview with Reuters. He described Zen "a threat to the Beijing Government" just as Pope John Paul II was to the communist regime in Poland.

Zen clarified the standpoint of the Holy See in a letter of response to Liu that received by the Vatican-affiliated newspaper AsiaNews, "The diplomatic relations are surely a political matter, but the Holy See has no political aim in mind, even less political ambitions. The only hope of the Holy Father is that the Chinese faithful may enjoy real religious freedom."

Zen was surprised about Liu’s statement as Liu should have recognized that "more and more the Catholics of China want to reestablish the communion with the Holy See and more and more they want the bishops to have the approval of the Holy Father."

"Mr. Liu presents himself as the representative of the official church, but if freedom were granted to the bishops, priests, and faithful to speak out, one would hear views that are very different from those expressed by Mr. Liu," Zen lamented, according to AsiaNews

"It is obvious that Catholics do not accept Communism, because of its atheistic premises. Not even the Government, however, would force the believers to accept Communism, because the National Constitution guarantees the right to religious freedom," Zen continued, speaking of the restriction faced by Chinese believers.

Rather than questioning the political agenda behind pope’s selection of cardinal, Zen suggested that Liu should "persuade the Government to allow all this for the sake of harmony in society if he really loves his country," so that the Chinese Government leaders "may raise their head on the international stage of human rights."

Zen also defended himself as many criticized him for his active political participation, the letter received by AsiaNews stated.

"When Zen criticizes certain policies of the Government, he is not challenging the Government itself. By the way, before this nomination to be a Cardinal, his plan, after his retirement next year, would have been to go back to Shanghai to teach in the local Seminary, where he would abstain from making public statements, just as he did during the years between 1989 and 1996," AsiaNews reported.

Zen was appointed by the Vatican as one of the 15 new cardinals in late February. Many suggested the selection of Hong Kong cardinal is very strategic. With Zen’s willingness and boldness to challenge the Chinese Communist Party on many issues, particularly religious freedom, Vatican-China relationship may be pushed forward even though the Beijing government appears to be very reluctant for change till now.