BY STAFF REPORTER
CARDINAL Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong has called on Catholic bishops in mainland China to courageously fulfill their responsibilities to the Church, saying compromise cannot last forever.
“Don’t be afraid Bear the responsibilities that history has placed upon you. In this critical moment, your choice could revive the Church or it could let her languish for a long time,” he said. “You are held accountable to history and you must be prepared to stand firm without blemish before God’s judgment.” The UCA News agency reported that the cardinal made the call in his article, “Inspiration From St Stephen’s Martyrdom, in Kung Kao Po”, the Hong Kong diocese’s Chineselanguage weekly.
Cardinal Zen had announced that Pope Benedict XVI had agreed to let him retire in the first half of 2009, although the date of the retirement has yet to be announced, and that after retirement he would focus on Chinese Church affairs.
His appeal was prompted by anticipation that Vaticanapproved bishops registered with the government might participate in the election of chairmen of the governmentrecognised Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association and Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China during the next National Congress of Catholic Representatives. The congress, the highest self-governing body of the Patriotic Association and bishops’ conference, is supposed to be held every five years. No national congress date has been announced.
Catholics registered with the government celebrated in 2007 the golden jubilee of the founding of the Patriotic Association, and in 2008 the jubilee of the “self-election and selfordination” of bishops.
The government-sanctioned Church began its own episcopal ordinations in 1958. Since then there have been about 170 “self-elected, self-ordained” bishops in China.
“Must the meeting take place?” Cardinal Zen asked, referring to the national congress. “Is it not an insult in response to the Pope’s letter to Chinese Catholics — or perhaps you could call it a slap on his face — if [bishops are]joining such a meeting?
“Does your conscience allow you to do that? Would the people of God accept such behaviour from you?” Cardinal Zen encouraged the bishops to follow the example of the first Christian martyr, St Stephen, assuring them that being open about their stance would not result in “total loss”.
“Compromise is compromise,” the cardinal said. “It cannot go on forever. One should not give up the truth of faith forever for the sake of evangelisation.”