Religious and political figures from Beijing, Hong Kong and the Vatican yesterday welcomed Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun's elevation to cardinal, saying it is an honour for all of China. The prelate said he hoped to visit the mainland and begin dialogue with the central government, which has apparently reacted positively to the news. 'I have always had this hope, but I could only keep my hope within my heart. I don't just want to go sightseeing, but to have a formal and constructive dialogue. I guess it will happen,' Cardinal-designate Zen said yesterday. Pope Benedict named 15 new cardinals, including the archbishops of Manila and Seoul. Cardinal Zen, 74, said the Pope's decision was a positive gesture towards rebuilding Sino-Vatican relations, despite possibly stirring pro-Beijing critics in Hong Kong. 'The Holy Father really cares about China. The number of cardinals he appointed this time is not much and it shows his priority,' he said. The cardinal-elect will formally receive his 'red hat' during a ceremony called a consistory on March 24 at the Vatican. In an indication of Beijing's acceptance, Anthony Liu Bainian , vice-chairman of the official Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association, said China would benefit from a new cardinal. Speaking before the announcement and without referring to Cardinal Zen, he said: 'The church in China needs not only one, but two or three cardinals. It is a good thing. The Catholic Church is universal and the church in China is part of it.' A Vatican source said Beijing had not been consulted beforehand but the Holy See hoped the move would not have any negative effects. 'It's a great honour for Bishop Zen and the church. The bishop of Hong Kong has nothing to do with the situation in China.' A Vatican official in Taiwan said: 'This will make everybody happy.' Chief Executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen, who is Catholic, congratulated Cardinal Zen, while tributes from religious leaders poured in.