Cardinal Zen: ‘Martyrdom is normal in our Church’

Cardinal Zen offers Mass on May 24, 2022 after appearing in court in Hong Kong. | Screenshot from livestream of Mass

Cardinal Joseph Zen offered Mass after his court appearance in Hong Kong on Tuesday and prayed for Catholics in mainland China who are facing persecution.

In his homily on May 24 after pleading not guilty to charges of failing to register a pro-democracy association, Zen chose not to speak about his legal case, but to highlight how Catholics in some parts of China cannot attend Mass right now.

The 90-year-old retired Catholic bishop of Hong Kong prayed in Chinese for his “brothers and sisters who cannot attend the Mass in any form tonight — for they have no freedom now,” Reuters reported.

The authorities in Shanghai and Beijing have issued the most stringent COVID-19 restrictions in the world this spring, stopping people from leaving their apartment compounds for any reason, including religious worship.

Additionally, Catholics under the age of 18 are not legally allowed to attend any public Mass in mainland China and local authorities have cracked down on China’s underground Catholic community in recent years.

On the World Day of Prayer for the Church in China, Zen said that the Holy See “made an unwise decision” to enter into a provisional agreement with the Chinese Communist Party government when it did.

“There is an urge to unify those above the ground and those underground but it seems that time is not ripe yet,” Zen said, according to AFP.

“The Vatican may have acted out of good faith, but they have made an unwise decision.”

The day after Zen’s arrest by Hong Kong authorities on May 11, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said he hoped that the cardinal’s arrest would not complicate the Holy See’s dialogue with China.

The Vatican has shied away from public criticism of the crackdown on democracy protests in Hong Kong since it first entered into the provisional agreement with China in 2018.

Zen offered Mass in a Hong Kong Catholic church with about 300 people in the congregation. The cardinal also live-streamed the Mass on his Facebook page, which received thousands of views in less than 24 hours.

His trial is scheduled to begin on Sept. 19.

“Martyrdom is normal in our Church,” Zen said. “We may not have to do that, but we may have to bear some pain and steel ourselves for our loyalty to our faith.”

Source: CBCEW