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    Thursday, February 23, 2006

    Knock, knock, knocking on China's door

    Pope Benedict XVI named 15 new cardinals yesterday, including Bishop Joseph Zen, of Hong Kong.

    The appointment of Bishop Zen, an outspoken campaigner for the rights of persecuted Roman Catholics, is seen as a sign that the Pope intends to combine dialogue with Beijing with an assertion of religious freedom. The Vatican estimates that it has eight million followers in China, compared with five million who follow the official state-run Church.,,173-2053401,00.html

    China warned outspoken Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Zen on Thursday not to mix politics and religion, after Pope Benedict XVI named him a cardinal.

    "We have taken note that Joseph Zen was appointed as a cardinal by the Vatican," Liu told journalists at a routine briefing."We advocate that religious figures should not interfere with politics."Liu also expressed hopes that the appointment would not disrupt social stability in Hong Kong.

    Zen has long been a fierce critic of the Chinese government and has often joined in pro-democracy protests in the territory.

    The Chinese government has repeatedly said it is willing to improve relations with the Vatican only if it breaks off ties with Taiwan, which Beijing regards as a renegade province.

    Another condition imposed by Beijing is for the Vatican not to interfere in China's internal affairs, in reference to how the government controls religion. "We have repeated our position on relations with the Vatican many times," Liu said."There is no change in our position."

    And, we know how to keep a secret :)

    It had been widely thought that Bishop Zen was the “secret cardinal”, named by the late John Paul II in 2003. Popes can keep the name of a cardinal secret if the appointment is politically sensitive or if disclosure is likely to endanger the prelate in question.
    Vatican officials said that the identity of John Paul’s secret cardinal may never be known.


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