The situation of China’s Roman Catholics was at the heart of the celebrations for the Holy Triduum at the Vatican, with a group of Chinese people being present and decorations appearing at different moments during the Church’s three holiest days.
On Good Friday, the first of the three days, the meditations for the Way of the Cross at the Roman Coliseum were given by Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-Kiun of Hong Kong.
A brochure published by the Vatican to accompany the event was illustrated with Chinese artworks representing each of the 14 Stations of the Cross.
Also, a Chinese man and woman were scheduled to pass the Cross to the Pope at the 12th station. The Pontiff would carry it for the final three stations. Nevertheless, because of the heavy rain, the Cross was carried during the final leg by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Pope's Vicar for the City of Rome.
The meditations for the Via Crucis written by Cardinal Zen evoked the suffering and sacrifice of modern day martyrs who are persecuted for the faith.
In his meditation for the first station –“Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane,” Cardinal Zen quoted Pope Benedict's 2007 letter to Chinese Catholics, which recalls that in many parts of the world, the Church “is going through the dark times of persecution.”
In his meditation for the fifth station -"Jesus before Pontius Pilate”- the Chinese prelate prayed that God would awaken the consciences of the many people in power so that they “recognize the innocence of (Christ's) followers. Give them courage to respect religious freedom.”
Even though China was not specifically mentioned during the meditations, Cardinal Zen told Vatican Radio that, by selecting him for the job, “the Holy Father wants Chinese Catholics to be very much present at the heart of the Universal Church.”
Finally, during the Easter vigil on Saturday, one of the seven adults Pope Benedict received into the Church through the Sacrament of Baptism was Chinese.
The Vatican has not had official diplomatic relations with China since 1951, but according to the Rome-based news agency I.Media, a group of Chinese officials traveled to Rome and held meetings with Vatican authorities on Tuesday of Holy Week. The unconfirmed talks were planned long before the outbreak of violence in Tibet, the agency said.
The Vatican has been looking to reestablish diplomatic relationships with Beijing, but is not willing to accept one of the preconditions demanded by the Communist government: that bishops be chosen and approved by local authorities instead of the Holy Father.