The Diocese of Hong Kong has issued a revised version of the Vatican's Chinese translation of Pope Benedict XVI's letter to Catholics in China.
The Vatican issued the papal letter in traditional and simplified Chinese translations on June 30. The revised text was published two weeks later in the July 15 issue of Kung Kao Po, the diocesan Chinese weekly.
In addition, 30,000 booklets of the revised text in traditional Chinese characters and another 30,000 in simplified characters were printed for free distribution. The booklets were distributed in all Hong Kong parishes.
According to Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, the Vatican’s Chinese text contains many mistakes. The revision is to "help those (Chinese) who don't know foreign languages understand the letter's original intentions," he told UCA News in mid-July.
He reportedly discussed the Vatican's Chinese translation with his auxiliary, Bishop John Tong Hon, and retired Cardinal Paul Shan Kuo-hsi of Taiwan. Both agreed the Chinese translation "is hard to understand and contains mistakes."
A mainland bishop told UCA News the Vatican's Chinese translation is acceptable for mainland Catholics who are familiar with Church terminology.
However, some government officials told him they have difficulty understanding its "unusual" sentence structure and words. "Such a translation could undermine the Catholic Church's image," added the bishop, who requested anonymity.
The cardinal decided to see what could be done and spent a week revising the translation with experts. One expert, Anthony Lam Sui-ki, senior researcher of the diocese's Holy Spirit Study Centre, told UCA News that the revised text is clearer, more coherent and conceptually more accurate.
Cardinal Zen said he hopes local Catholics will bring copies to their relatives and friends on the mainland. The diocese will also send copies to the Chinese government via the central government's Liaison Office, he said.
The 76-year-old prelate presided over three evening sessions, July 16-18, at three parishes here to explain the papal letter's content and context, and to answer questions.
According to Cardinal Zen, the letter has its origins in a document prepared by the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in 2002.
Cardinal Zen told the July 18 session that the papal letter has great significance for mainland bishops, who are "very lonely and seldom meet with or know what bishops of other dioceses think." He added that the letter could serve as a common reference point when they deal with government officials.
"After reading it several times attentively, one realizes how precious this letter is,” the cardinal said. “Then one will be eager to have more people, especially mainland Catholics, read it."