Cardinal looks to mainland role

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 March, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 March, 2007, 12:00am

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun will stay on as Bishop of Hong Kong, after Pope Benedict declined his repeated requests for retirement. But the Pope also reaffirmed his earlier desire for Cardinal Zen, 75, 'to do whatever' he can to collaborate with the Holy See and take part in affairs concerning the mainland church.

'After I received the Holy Father's message, I have immediately started requesting the appointment for a coadjutor bishop who will succeed me eventually. I simply cannot do two jobs at the same time and need a pair of strong helping hands, [of someone] who has the right to succeed me,' Cardinal Zen said.

The cardinal is assisted by Auxiliary Bishop John Tong Hon, who is a frontrunner for the post. However, Cardinal Zen declined to state his preference. The cardinal, the local clergy and the faithful will be consulted, with the final choice made by the Pope. The process could take more than six months.