.- For at least a second time Pope Benedict XVI has rejected a request from Hong Kong’s Cardinal Joseph Zen to accept his resignation as Bishop of Hong Kong. Zen expressed his desire to step down from his responsibilities at the diocese, in order to allow him freedom to focus fully on the reunification of the Church in China and the reestablishment of active Vatican-Chinese diplomatic relations.
According to Cardinal Zen’s press secretary, the Holy Father replied to a recent resignation proposal with a letter asking Zen to stay the course as ordinary of Hong Kong, while continuing his work for the whole Church in China.
"The pope has already verbally told him to stay on the job some time ago," Dominic Yung, Zen's spokesman, told The Associated Press. "It's just a formal letter this time."
In an open letter to all Catholics in Hong Kong and obtained by the Union of Catholic Asian News, Cardinal Zen said he received a letter on March 19th, the Feast of St. Joseph, signed by Cardinal Ivan Dias, Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples, in which "he informed me that the Holy Father has decided not to accept my repeated request to be relieved from the office of the Bishop of Hong Kong."
In the letter, which is to be published in the March 25 issue of Kung Kao Po, the diocese's Chinese-language weekly, Cardinal Zen says the Pope has decided that "I carry on as the Bishop of Hong Kong and, in that position, do whatever I can to participate in the concerns for the Church in China in collaboration with the Holy See, until it will be arranged otherwise."
"Obedience is (a) fundamental duty grounded in our Sacramental Ordination. I look up to the example of St. Joseph and submit myself to the will of God," the Cardinal said.
He also asked the faithful to continue to pray for him. "I will petition the Holy See that a coadjutor bishop be soon given to our diocese," he added.
Cardinal Zen, who turned 75 in January, has already submitted one letter of resignation due to age requirements which are written into Canon Law. According to several sources, Zen was verbally denied another resignation attempt when he pitched a similar proposal during this January’s special Vatican meeting on the Church in China.
The Church in China continues to be an area of concern for Roman officials. Beijing severed ties with the Holy See in 1951 after the Communists took power and set up a separate Catholic church outside the Pope's authority, the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). There currently exist two Catholic churches in China: the official communist-controlled CCPA and an “underground” Church of nearly 12 million Catholics who remain loyal to the Pope.