Joseph Zen

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His Eminence
Joseph Zen
SDB
Cardinal Bishop Emeritus of Hong Kong
Joseph Zen Ze Kiun.jpg
Cardinal Zen
Diocese Roman Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong
Installed 23 September 2002
Term ended 15 April 2009
Predecessor John Wu
Successor John Tong
Other posts Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong
Orders
Ordination 11 February 1961
by Maurilio Fossati
Consecration 9 December 1996
by John Wu
Created Cardinal 24 March 2006
Personal details
Born (1932-01-13) 13 January 1932 (age 82)
Shanghai, Republic of China
Nationality Chinese
Denomination Roman Catholic
Motto Ipsi Cura Est
This is a Chinese name; the family name is Zen.
Styles of
Joseph Zen
Coat of arms of Joseph Zen Ze-kiun.svg
Reference style His Eminence
Spoken style Your Eminence
Informal style Cardinal
Joseph Zen
Traditional Chinese 陳日君
Simplified Chinese 陈日君

Joseph Zen Ze-kiun SDB (born 13 January 1932) is a Chinese Cardinal of the Catholic Church, who served as the sixth Bishop of Hong Kong. He was elevated to the cardinalate in 2006, and is famous for his outspokenness on issues regarding human rights, political freedom, and religious liberty, often attracting criticism from the Communist Party of China.[citation needed] He retired from his bishopric on 15 April 2009.

Early life and career[edit]

Joseph Zen was born in Shanghai to devoutly Catholic parents, Vincent Zen and Margaret Tseu. He studied in a church school during the Second Sino-Japanese War, but was sent to an abbey after his father suffered a stroke.

Zen fled to Hong Kong from Shanghai to escape Communist rule at the end of the Chinese Civil War. After entering the Salesians at the Hong Kong novitiate, he was ordained to the priesthood on 11 February 1961 by Cardinal Maurilio Fossati. Zen obtained a licentiate in theology (1961) and a doctorate in philosophy (1964) from the Salesian Pontifical University in Rome. Since 1973, he has taught in the Holy Spirit Seminary College of Hong Kong – 1976 to 1978 of Macao Salesian School (Instituto Salesiano) (澳門慈幼中學) as principal; In 1978, he became the Provincial Superior of Salesians (which includes mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan), then resigned in 1983. He was a lecturer in the seminaries in China, centres of studies acknowledged by the Communist party, between 1989 to 1996. He was appointed the coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong in 1996 by Pope John Paul II.

Advocacy for democracy[edit]

After he succeeded as Bishop of Hong Kong on 23 September 2002, he led the Diocese in voicing their reservations about the proposed anti-subversion laws, required under Article 23 of the Basic Law. He was worried that these laws, if enacted without a thorough consultation process including a white paper, could easily lead to violations of basic civil rights in future.

On 1 July 2003, he took part in a prayer gathering at Victoria Park before the 1 July March began. Many Christians, including Catholics and those of other denominations, attended the demonstration.

On 3 June 2004, the diocese held a praying activity called Democratize China (民主中國). Zen said that Hong Kong was suffering from a bloodless June Fourth Massacre without guns and tanks. He was criticized by the Financial Minister of PRC.

On 1 July 2004, Zen attended a prayer gathering at Victoria Park before the second 1 July March, but did not take part in the demonstration. Still, many Catholics joined thousands of other citizens in the anti-government march.

On 3 November 2005, after returning from Vatican City, he said that the people of Hong Kong should be allowed to decide whether or not they wanted proposed constitutional reforms; he also said that the Government should conduct a "territory-wide public opinion survey" to allow the people to decide whether or not they wanted the constitutional reform package it was proposing. He was then known as the 'Voice' of Hong Kong because he successfully made six pan-democrats that tried to support the motion of the Government to announce opposition to the motion. He was openly criticized by Chief Secretary Rafael Hui after the defeat of the political reform package.

Cardinal Zen attended the 4 June 2006 Prayer gathering in memory of the victims of the 1989 massacre. He asked the Chinese government to let the Chinese people discuss the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests freely.[1]

Zen also led the 1 July Protest in 2007.

"New Conscience"[edit]

Zen has long been known as the "new conscience of Hong Kong" for his defence of human rights, political freedom, and religious liberty in the face of criticism from China's communist government. He has bluntly said that the Chinese crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square was "a big mistake," and called on the government to "tell the truth" about those events. He was also an opponent of Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23, a since-shelved national security bill, which in 2003 prompted an anti-government protest by half a million people. Zen is a vocal proponent of a push for universal suffrage in Hong Kong, telling his flock in a 2005 homily that "a path will appear when enough people walk on it." He has publicly called on officials in Hong Kong to support the aspirations of the people, rather than functioning as spokespersons for the central government in Beijing. At a personal level, he is described by John L. Allen Jr., a Vatican watcher, as "a gracious, humble man, a moderate on most issues".

Zen was named the "Person of the Year 2002" by Apple Daily.

Retirement[edit]

Bishop Joseph Zen prayed with Catholics before the protest against Hong Kong Basic Law Article 23 legislation

On 18 September 2005, he told Hong Kong newspaper Apple Daily reporters that he was willing to retire in January 2007.[2] He also said that he wanted to be a teacher in either mainland China or in Africa, as there are teachers shortage in Africa. Democratic Party ex-chairman Martin Lee, also a Roman Catholic, stated that because Zen was still healthy for his age, the Pope may request him to stay in his position. Legislative Council member Audrey Eu praised Zen for being unlike other religious leaders in Hong Kong because he was comparatively brave in sharing his political views and also because "he carried out his ideas of fairness, equitableness, and philanthropy via actual efforts". On the other hand, some conservatives inside the church speculated that the strained relationship between Beijing and the Holy See will become more relaxed if Zen retires. Nonetheless, Zen wrote a letter to the Pope on 13 January 2006 and stated that he did want to retire from his position, though not because of his age. On 15 April 2009 Pope Benedict accepted Cardinal Zen's resignation. Thus John Tong Hon became the Bishop of the diocese.[3]

From 22 October 2011 for three days Cardinal Zen went on hunger strike which was undertaken as an act of protest against losing a long-standing legal battle with the Hong Kong government over how aided schools should be run.[4] He later wrote about his experiences in an open letter.[5]

Cardinalate[edit]

Coat of Arms of Cardinal Zen. The motto is Ipsi cura est is from 1 Peter 5:7. In English it says: "Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you."

On 22 February 2006, it was confirmed that Zen would be elevated to College of Cardinals by Pope Benedict XVI in the next consistory on 24 March 2006. Zen, who was created Cardinal-Priest of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore a Tor Bella Monaca, believed that his elevation would show how much the Pope values the Church in China. He was named shortly after to be a member of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments.

Bishop Zen's elevation was welcomed by Catholics in Hong Kong as it was seen as a recognition of the bishop's stance on social justice and as an honour for the church in Hong Kong. Vicar General Rev. Dominic Chan Chi-ming said that it would be an honour to have a cardinal to once again head the diocese. Rev. Louis Ha Ke-loon said it shows that even the Pope feels that Bishop Zen should speak out. Democrat legislator Martin Lee added that it was good news because no matter whether he is a bishop or a cardinal, as a religious leader Zen speaks as moral voice of the people.

Since the consistory, Zen has become the only Chinese cardinal under the age of 80 eligible to vote in papal conclaves. His elevation has brought rejoicing to the Church in China (and particularly to underground Catholics) as it is seen as a great sign of hope. Bishop Wei Jingyi of Qiqihar, who is not recognized by the Chinese government, said that it is a "great joy", and that Bishop Zen is "very trustworthy" and uncompromising in his dedication to the Catholic faith.

Cardinal Zen offered a Pontifical High Mass in the Tridentine Rite in May 2006, for which he was thanked by traditionalist Catholics around the world.

At Pope Benedict XVI's behest, Cardinal Zen wrote the meditations for the traditional Stations of the Cross led by the Pope at the Roman Colisseum on Good Friday, 21 March 2008.

Relations with the People's Republic of China[edit]

After the pope canonized several priests who died during the Boxer Rebellion, Zen (as coadjutor bishop at the time) said that the priests were innocent and great and the Boxers deserved to be punished.[citation needed] This angered the Central People's Government, who banned him from visiting mainland China for six years.[citation needed] On 3 May 2004, he visited mainland China for the first time since 1998 and was the first bishop of Hong Kong to visit China since the handover in 1997. Still, the official newspapers published by the Communist Party of China criticized him.[citation needed]

He has also been especially critical of Beijing's response to the Falun Gong spiritualist movement, which China's leaders have outlawed for "trying to overthrow" the Communist Party. Every time the Government requested the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress to re-interpret the Basic Law, Zen criticized the Government and mainland China.[citation needed]

In April and May 2006, Cardinal Zen opposed the episcopal consecration of two bishops in China who belonged to the state-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association. The elevations were without the permission of the Holy See, causing a controversy. In February 2007, in an interview, Cardinal Zen referred the appointments without Vatican permission as a "declaration of war".

In October 2011, Zen admitted that he without the knowledge of the Holy See had received HK$20 million from Hong Kong tycoon Jimmy Lai since 2005. Part of the money was spent helping the underground Church on the mainland.[6]

Controversy and criticism[edit]

A bill critical of Cardinal Zen.

Education reform controversies[edit]

On 5 June 2005, Zen announced that if the Legislative Council passed a proposal to support the schools to create incorporated management committees on 8 July 2005, he would appeal against the decision to the court. The Education (Amendment) Bill 2002, once enacted, would likely play down the role of the Church in running Catholic schools and in promoting Catholic education.

However, after the Government gave up some argued points in the motion, the Diocese decided to support the motion, though the Diocese later announced plans to prosecute the Government on 28 September 2005.

After two teachers committed suicide in early January 2006, Zen said that these acts must be due to the educational reforms and he asked the government to halt new reforms. Then Permanent Secretary for Education and Manpower Fanny Law rejected causal connections, but provoked furore among teachers and the public when she questioned why only two teachers committed suicide because of the reforms.[7] She apologised for her "inappropriate" remarks on 10 January.[8]

WTO affairs[edit]

On 18 December 2005, Zen visited protesters at the 2005 WTO Ministerial Conference and tried to visit the detained South Korean Catholics, including two priests and a nun. He criticised the Hong Kong police for their treatment of the protesters.[9] He also called the government a "child" for "doing something nonsensical.'" About one month later, several unions in Hong Kong Police Force decided to write a letter to the Pope to complain about Zen's speech. Zen replied that some policemen were "sycophantic to the senior officers inside the police force".

Criticisms within the diocese[edit]

Several local priests tried to persuade Zen not to participate in any protests before he led the 1 July Protest in 2007. Zen was only allowed to attend the prayer gathering before the protests and protests against the educational reforms. Some Catholics criticized Zen for making the church like a "political party" and posted anti-Zen advertisements in newspapers and on the internet.

In January 2006, Rev. Joseph Lee, Parish Priest of St. Anthony's Church, who, similar to Zen, was born and educated in Shanghai and is a Salesian, said in a television programme that "99% of Catholics disagree with the Bishop," while according to a survey more than 60% of Catholics agree with the Bishop.[citation needed] He also said that Zen seriously harmed the relationship between China and the Holy See.

The second chapter in 2006 of the Catholic official newspaper Kung Kao Po contained criticism and opinions by Rev. John B. Kwan Kit Tong against Zen. Four weeks later, Rev. Kwan claimed in the same newspaper that the criticism was not written directly against Zen and that his writing had been misinterpreted by local newspapers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "陳日君 : 不能讓六四不了了之". RTHK. 4 June 2006. (Chinese)
  2. ^ "香港主教陳日君獲任命為樞機主教". BBC News. 22 February 2006. (Chinese)
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ Gheddo, Piero (22 October 2011). "Card. Zen ends hunger strike for freedom of Hong Kong Catholic schools". Asianews.it. 
  5. ^ Gheddo, Piero (25 October 2011). "Card. Zen: My struggle and that of Hong Kong for Catholic schools". Asianews.it. 
  6. ^ Gheddo, Piero (20 October 2011). "I received millions and spent them for the Church and the poor, Card Zen says". Asianews.it. 
  7. ^ Winnie Chong (10 January 2006). "Work pressure pushing teachers over the edge". The Standard. Retrieved 31 July 2008. 
  8. ^ Winnie Chong (11 January 2006). "Education chief sorry over suicide remarks". The Standard. Retrieved 31 July 2008. 
  9. ^ "... And They Call It Democracy". ohmynews.com. 21 December 2005. 

External links[edit]

Catholic Church titles
Vacant
Title last held by
Lorenzo Bianchi
Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong
1996–2002
Vacant
Title next held by
John Tong Hon
Preceded by
John Wu
Bishop of Hong Kong
2002–2009
Succeeded by
John Tong Hon