Officials in Rome give Bishop Zen the go-ahead to proceed with his campaign Top Vatican officials have given their blessings for the Catholic Church in Hong Kong to lobby for the introduction of universal suffrage, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun says. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sodano told Bishop Zen the Hong Kong diocese should persevere in defending principles of human rights and freedom amid the present 'difficult' political situation. During a trip to Rome last week for a church conference, Bishop Zen - an outspoken supporter of full democracy in Hong Kong - met Cardinal Sodano and Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangel isation of the People, to discuss Hong Kong affairs. Bishop Zen said he had discussed recent developments including education reforms and the fight for full democracy. He said Cardinal Sodano expressed concern about Hong Kong's political development and supported the role the local diocese played in fighting for universal suffrage. 'He knew how delicate the situation is and said I need to achieve a balance,' Bishop Zen said. 'He said that on the one hand I need to persevere with defending principles of human rights and morals; on the other, I need to assess the situation and take effective action. 'He knows we are in a difficult situation and are having a hard time. He said we need to hold firm to our principles, but also need to handle matters wisely.' Beside the church's role in constitutional development, Bishop Zen said he told the cardinals how the diocese had 'lost the battle' over the government's reform of the education system. 'They totally support everything I have been doing. They believe what I have been doing is in line with the church's principles, and asked me to continue my work,' he said. Bishop Zen said neither Cardinal Sodano nor Cardinal Sepe offered to provide diplomatic assistance, to avoid interfering in Hong Kong's internal affairs. However, they did promise to pray for the church in Hong Kong, he said. The cardinals are the two most senior Vatican leaders under Pope John Paul. While Cardinal Sodano directs the Holy See's foreign affairs portfolio, Cardinal Sepe oversees worldwide missionary work. The remarks made by the top papal officials are significant as they serve as both moral support for the pro-democracy campaign and also should help ease pressure the outspoken bishop faces from conservative clerics in the diocese. Despite the lack of formal relations between China and the Vatican, which has diplomatic ties with Taipei, the Holy See is understood to have been monitoring recent developments in Hong Kong.