Catholics welcome bishop's elevation

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 14 February, 2006, 12:00am

Most see the likely move as recognition of his social stance

Catholics in Hong Kong yesterday rejoiced at the news that diocesan leader Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun is likely to be elevated to cardinal, saying this would be recognition of the cleric's stance on social justice and an honour for the church in Hong Kong.

Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar-general of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese, said although he was still waiting for a formal announcement, having a cardinal once again to head the diocese would be an honour.

'This will show how importantly the Holy See values the church in China,' Father Chan said.

While in pastoral terms a cardinal's role would not differ from that of a bishop, the position would give the person more prestige and authority over matters of the faith.

Those in the church who have been pushing for democracy said if Bishop Zen was elevated, it would acknowledge his outspokenness in upholding human rights and solidarity with social underdogs.

But heated discussion on such an appointment is understood to have started among the diocesan leadership - divided over the bishop's outspoken stance on politics.

Father Louis Ha Ke-loon, a pro-democracy activist and keeper of the diocesan archives, said he was glad that Bishop Zen received official support from the Vatican for his strong stance on social justice.

'I am happy because it really shows that even the Pope feels that Bishop Zen should speak out. A bishop can, of course, choose to keep silent on social issues, but I think it is more admirable for a religious leader to be a voice in social justice,' Father Ha said.

Jackie Hung Ling-yu, an officer of the diocese's Justice and Peace Commission and a close aide of Bishop Zen, said the bishop would remain a beacon for the underprivileged, more so after his elevation.

Father Luke Tsui Kam-yiu, director of the Catholic Institute of Religion and Society, said the appointment would be due to the importance of the diocese in the universal church rather than Bishop Zen's personal record.

'The bishop will be made cardinal no matter if his name is Bishop Lee or Bishop Cheung.

'What is important is how a bishop will lead the Catholics to live a full Christian life. It would be good if more people join the church after he becomes cardinal,' Father Tsui said.

Democrat legislator Martin Lee Chu-ming, a devout Catholic, said: 'This is good news because no matter whether he is a bishop or a cardinal, as a religious leader he speaks as the moral voice of the people.'