Thursday, February 23, 2006
Pope Benedict XVI has named Bishop Joseph Zen a cardinal at his weekly general audience at the Vatican.
This will make Zen, an outspoken democracy and religious rights advocate, the only cardinal representing China in a vote-casting position in the Vatican’s electoral college.
The expected announcement, which also saw 14 other bishops named as cardinals, places Zen in a relatively powerful position inside the Roman Catholic leadership, allowing him input into the Pope’s handling of matters related to Hong Kong, China and Taiwan.
Zen spent the day in retreat but after the announcement at 7.15pm local time, and also at the Vatican in Rome, he said he was “very happy” and that his appointment “shows the pope is concerned with China.”
Zen, first ordained as a priest on February 11, 1961, in Hong Kong, said he might be asked to move to Rome.
The appointment will be official when Pope Benedict calls a “consistory”- a formal meeting of the Sacred College of Cardinals – to actually create the positions on March 25, the Catholic World News service said.
Hong Kong’s last cardinal was John Baptist Wu who died in September 2002.
In 1996, Zen became the ninth bishop to preside over the Hong Kong Diocese and is known for his ability to bring a message of democracy to his followers and to the Hong Kong public.
He was a key figure in the two mass July 1 marches that political analysts say precipitated the resignation of former chief executive Tung Chee-hwa last year.
Tung’s replacement, Donald Tsang, has also had run-ins with the forceful prelate, especially over the failure of the constitutional reform package, for which administration leaders partially blamed Zen.
But after the announcement, Tsang released a statement saying: “As a Catholic, I wholeheartedly congratulate the bishop on his new appointment as the cardinal. Cardinal Zen has delivered dedicated service in the Hong Kong Catholic Church over the past few decades.”
Zen was one of three Asians named cardinals during the ceremony Wednesday. Nicholas Cheong Jin Suk, the archbishop of Seoul, became South Korea’s second cardinal and Manila’s Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales was also elevated.
The naming of Zen as cardinal fills one of 12 empty slots in the Vatican’s electoral college of 120, according to church news source Catholic Online.
In addition to his duties as bishop, Zen teaches philosophy and theology, as he has since 1971, at the Holy Spirit Seminary College in Hong Kong.
Zen was born in Shanghai on January 13, 1932, and has been a priest for 45 years.