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Cardinal Zen on Pope's China Letter

"One Impression and Two Hopes"


HONG KONG, JULY 2, 2007 (Zenit) - Here is the message published by Cardinal Joseph Zen Zi-kiun, bishop of Hong Kong, in response to the publication of Benedict XVI's letter to the Catholics in China.

* * *

The long awaited letter from the Holy Father has finally seen the light of the day. His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI has addressed a letter to the bishops, priests, religious and faithful in China as he had promised to do last January.

Indeed, it is a historical "first" that the Pope has written a letter to the Catholic community in a particular region. The motive is, as is obvious, that that community has experienced so much tribulation in the last decades, that the Holy Father wants to show special concern for those his children and give them some guidelines in this seemingly crucial moment, so that they might free themselves from their unfortunate predicament.

At the beginning of June the Vatican secretary of state announced that "the Pope's letter has been definitively approved," a rather strange way of saying things: "the Pope's letter approved by the Pope?" The fact, probably, is that even the finished text of the Pope's letter, according to the Vatican way of doing things, would still pass through further checks or even corrections. Obviously, the finally approved letter is the Pope's letter, with his signature.

After a cursory vision of the rather long letter, I would like to share with the media my one impression and two hopes.

The impression. I admire the precious balance achieved by the Holy Father between his passion for the truth and his love for his children. Only an outstanding theologian and a tender father could satisfy at the same time the demands of the truth and the kindness toward people. Blessed be God for having given us such a leader!

On hope. The doctrine painstakingly explained by Benedict XVI, is nothing but the most traditional and universally accepted Catholic principles, belonging to the religious field, with no secret political agenda, even less with an intention of attacking anybody. My hope is that the leaders of our country would read the Pope's letter from this perspective and understand the true unchangeable nature of the Catholic Church.

A second hope. The voice of our bishops and priests in China is often prevented from reaching our leaders; now that the letter of the Pope is in the hands of our leaders, our bishops and priests can thus refer to it directly as a common starting point for dialogue.

The Pope insists that bishops are the leaders of the Church and they are not to be separated from the Roman Pontiff. My hope is that our bishops and priests stand united with the Holy Father. Let our Church in China be truly the Catholic Church recognized and respected by the rest of the world, and let it bring honor and glory to our country on the stage of the universal Church.

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