What's the biggest threat to Asia? Atheism, this cardinal says

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun speaks at the Asianews Conference at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Nov. 18, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun speaks at the Asianews Conference at the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, Nov. 18, 2014. Credit: Bohumil Petrik/CNA.

.- Hong Kong's retired prelate Cardinal Joseph Zen said that amid decades of communist rule in China, human values are at stake in all of Asia and can only be salvaged by fervidly preaching the gospel.

What threatens the continent most today, Cardinal Zen told CNA, “is a humanistic atheism; people who oppose God-to-man, man-to-God.”

By looking to the history of China, it's clear “that communism has destroyed all human values. So to save human values we have to work hard to spread the good news of Jesus Christ,” he said. “We have to preach God because only God can save man.”

The retired cardinal gave his comments during a Nov. 18 symposium on the Church in Asia, entitled “The mission in Asia: from John Paul II to Pope Francis.”

He reflected that the task of evangelization in China, as it is in all of Asia, requires boldly proclaiming human values and rights.

“So that's what we are doing in Hong Kong. Although we are already a part of China, we still have freedom of speech so we must speak out,” he said, noting that while there will not be any immediate results, the Church must persevere.

He also touched on how Pope Francis is received in China, saying that although it is likely that the whole world has some sympathy and respect for what the pontiff is doing, the Chinese government is not ready to change anything in terms of their religious policy.

Pope Francis “has to work very hard,” the cardinal added, saying that if the Pope chooses to visit China right now, “I don’t see any probability of a success because they will surely manipulate him, because there is no sign of any good will on the part of China.”

The Pope’s ongoing push for dialogue is something key for the Asian Church and for modern times in general, Cardinal Zen observed, drawing specific attention to what he told Asian bishops during his visit to South Korea in August.

“In the mass with the Asian bishops, (the Pope) spoke about dialogue, and he said that dialogue has two essential conditions: one is that each one should be coherent to his own identity, (and) the second point is to have this empathy and this open heart to listen.”

“Both the coherence with one’s own identity and the openness of heart are important,” he noted, saying it is “very wise” advice on the pontiff’s part.

Also present at the Nov. 18 symposium on Asia was Bishop Lazzaro You Heung-Sik of Daejeon, South Korea, who welcomed Pope Francis to his diocese during the pontiff’s August visit.

Like the rest of Asia, the Church in Korea is also walking a path of dialogue, he told CNA Nov. 18, noting that it is not a dialogue of “activism or superficiality, but an authentic dialogue of Christians who live their relation to Christ every day, and which brings them close to others, listening to others.”

Only by fostering this attitude will others be influenced to come forward in dialogue as well, Bishop You said. He added that as Christians, we are “the living flowers that give lived testimony to the Gospel.”

Among the current initiatives the local church in Hong Kong is backing in the push for greater human rights are the current protests that have been organized largely by students in response to limits Chinese leadership has placed on who can run for the position of chief executive, Hong Kong's top leader, in 2017.

With the new rules allowing only one vote per citizen for pre-selected candidates chosen by the Chinese government, protestors have accused Beijing’s authorities of breaking their previous guarantee of Hong Kong’s right to democracy.

Cardinal Zen said that the people of Hong Kong “are fighting for a real democracy,” which is not something that the new restrictions allow. “That is not a real election, so we are fighting against that,” he said.

However, despite the good intentions on the part of protestors, things are getting out of hand. The cardinal noted that whereas things began “rationally” with no immediate expectations, the students have become impatient.

“(They) have taken the whole thing in their hands, and they are impatient…they go so fast without much planning, and obviously they want to have immediate success, and that’s not possible. So in this way they are making mistakes.”

Yesterday protestors in Hong Kong clashed with police when they attempted to break into a parliament building, using metal barricades to break down a side entrance of the Legislative Council building, BBC reports.

Because the students are young, they could have the opportunity of raising “the awareness of the whole world, but then it’s dangerous to waste the sympathy of the people, because now things are dragging on too long,” he said.

Tags: China, Evangelization, Communist Party, Atheism, Church in Asia