A Handful of Catholic Leaders Voice Support for Cardinal Zen

Catholic leaders, scholars, and human rights activists have publicly expressed solidarity with Card. Zen as his trial commences. 

Newsroom (05/10/2022 9:00 AM Gaudium Press) —As Cardinal Joseph Zen begins his trial in Hong Kong, several Catholic leaders have come out with support for the 90-year-old bishop emeritus.

Zen and five others are charged with failing to properly register a fund providing legal aid to pro-democracy protesters. An outspoken critic of Beijing’s communist regime, Zen served as a trustee of the “612 Humanitarian Relief Fund,” which helped pay legal and medical bills for protesters arrested and hurt during the 2019 demonstrations in Hong Kong.

These are the Catholic leaders, scholars, and human rights activists who have publicly expressed their solidarity with Zen as his trial commences:

Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, wrote in support of Zen in Avvenire on Sept. 23.

“Cardinal Zen is a ‘man of God’; at times intemperate, but submissive to the love of Christ, who wanted him to be his priest, deeply in love, like Don Bosco, with youth,” Filoni wrote.

He concluded his statement, which he called “a testimony to the truth,” by saying: “Cardinal Zen is not to be condemned. Hong Kong, China, and the Church have a devoted son in him, not to be ashamed of.”

Bishop Thomas Tobin of Providence, Rhode Island, made an appeal for prayers on Twitter on Sept. 19 as Zen’s trial was scheduled to begin (it was postponed because the judge contracted COVID-19):

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“Today be sure to remember our brother in faith, 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, who is on trial in China, and also the Church in China, which is regularly attacked and restricted by the government. And pray for Christians everywhere who are being persecuted for their faith,” he wrote.

Bishop Joseph Strickland of Tyler, Texas, wrote on Sept. 18: Pray for Cardinal Joseph Zen, who will face trial tomorrow at a court in Hong Kong. The 90-year-old Cardinal’s fight to protect the people in Hong Kong from Communists should be written in Golden letters.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco shared his prayer for Zen on Twitter on Sept. 26: “Mary, Untier of Knots, against all odds, we ask you to intercede for our brother Cardinal Zen, that justice might be done, and his heart consoled.”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, an auxiliary bishop of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, offered his prayers on Twitter on Sept. 26: “We ask God to protect Cardinal Joseph Zen, a loyal son of the Church. The latter is facing trial as a defendant in Hong Kong. May his faith always support and strengthen him in this delicate moment. May Mary, auxilium Christianorum, be at his side to inspire him with courage.”

On Sept. 1, Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect emeritus of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, shared his disappointment that Zen was not present at the meeting of the College of Cardinals in August.

“Perhaps the Church should be freer and less bound to power-based, worldly logic, consequently freer to intervene and, if necessary, to criticize those politicians who end up suppressing human rights. In this case, I wonder why not criticize Beijing,” Müeller said.

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“Zen is a symbol and he was arrested on a pretext, he did nothing, he is an influential, courageous, and much-feared figure by the government,” he said. “He is over 80 years old and we have left him all alone.”

Cardinal Charles Bo of Yangon, president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC), offered his support shortly after Zen’s arrest in May:

In a statement, he wrote: “My brother Cardinal, His Eminence Joseph Zen, was arrested and faces charges simply because he served as a trustee of a fund which provided legal aid to activists facing court cases. In any system where the rule of law exists, providing assistance to help people facing prosecution meet their legal fees is a proper and accepted right. How can it be a crime to help accused persons have legal defense and representation?”

Words of support and criticism of communist Beijing came from scholars, human rights activists and those who have fought for religious freedom worldwide.

– Raju Hasmukh with files from CNA and Twitter


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