Chinese Official warns newly appointed Cardinal, Bishop Zen, not to interfere into politics

Feb 23

Following the nomination of Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen, as one of the fifteen new Cardinals appointed by Pope Benedict XVI, the Chinese foreign ministry made known its position Thursday on the issue. It has warned the head of the Roman Catholic church in Hong Kong, Bishop Joseph Zen, not to meddle in politics.

At a news briefing in Beijing, foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said the Chinese government had noted the appointment and believed the Catholic church had all along advocated that religious figures should not interfere in politics. Zen has frequently been critical of Beijing in the past.

In an interview with CNN, Zen said there were two distinct type of politics - official party politics and a wider participation of civil society.

"We should not engage in the first but the second kind should be a duty of all citizens," he told the network.

"We in Hong Kong and because of principle of one country-two systems we can keep this distinction," he said.

Zen said he saw his appointment as an indication of a very special predilection for the Chinese people. The outspoken Zen, who on Wednesday became the sixth Chinese in history to be named a cardinal, said on Thursday he hoped his appointment could help end the 55-year dispute between the Vatican and China.

Earlier on Thursday, Zen told a press conference in Hong Kong that his forthright style would be hard to change and he hoped Sino-Vatican ties could be normalized before the Beijing Olympics in 2008.

The communist government cut off ties with the Vatican in 1951 and does not recognize the authority of the Pope, forcing the faithful to adhere to the government-controlled Chinese Catholic Church.

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