Giving hope to persecuted Christians since 1995
Select Page

A Cardinal for China

Hong Kong’s Cardinal retires, a loss for China ‘s Catholics and freedom-loving people everywhere

ICC Note

Cardinal Joseph Zen had been the head of Catholic Church in Hong Kong and during his time in office he staunchly advocated for freedom of religion for Christians and others in China .

04/16/2009 China (The Wall Street Journal)- Beijing ‘s bureaucrats rail loudly against religious figures when it suits their political needs, and one of their frequent targets in recent years has been Cardinal Joseph Zen, an outspoken advocate for democracy and freedom in China .

The Shanghai-born priest retired this week as bishop of Hong Kong . It’s not just his successor who will carry on his work; it’s also the millions of Christians and freedom-loving people everywhere for whom he is an inspiration.

Cardinal Zen, 77, has served China ‘s Catholics for most of his life — as a Salesian priest, as bishop and ultimately as cardinal. Born in Shanghai , he arrived in Hong Kong in 1949, fleeing the Communists. He returned to the mainland in the aftermath of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, when he traveled across the country teaching at Chinese seminaries.

After Hong Kong’s return to China in 1997, Cardinal Zen became known as the “conscience” of Hong Kong . He worked to ensure that that Catholics in the territory maintained their freedoms and called for greater freedoms for worshippers of all faiths in China — where the Communist state sanctions and controls religious activity. Catholics in China face persecution, and people of other faiths, such as Tibetan Buddhists, have suffered even stronger crackdowns.

Cardinal Zen understands that religious rights can never be fully separated from political rights. He has repeatedly criticized Beijing for its handling of the Tiananmen Square massacre and for delaying democracy in Hong Kong, which he described as a “a bloodless Tiananmen Square.” When the Hong Kong government tried to pass an antisedition law that would have restricted free speech in 2003, he called for citizens to protest the measure.

In the meantime, the Church’s presence in China continues to grow. Many Chinese are turning to religion — be it Buddhism, Daoism or Christianity — to help them find a moral compass in a rapidly changing environment. Roughly six million Catholics worship in officially sanctioned Chinese churches, and at least that many again worship in secret. Vatican-appointed bishops who are not also recognized by China ‘s state church are often targeted for persecution. Nine bishops are currently in jail, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation.

[Go to the Full Story]