Pope Chose Chinese Cardinal for 2008 Stations of the Cross

Source: FSSPX News


Bishop of the former British colony since 2002, Bishop Joseph Zen Ze-kiun never hesitated to take a stand in public debate on subjects concerning the political and religious life in Hong-Kong. Aged 76, and a Salesian religious, Joseph Zen Ze-kiun was created cardinal on the occasion of the first consistory of Benedict XVI’s pontificate in March 2006. This past March 10 to 12, he took part in the meeting presided over by Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Secretary of State of the Vatican, “to study the most important issues concerning the life of the Church in China.” This commission, set up by Pope Benedict XVI, gathered officials from the dicasterie of the Roman Curia as well as several representatives of Chinese bishops and religious congregations. According to the Vatican, there are between 8 and 12 million Catholics in China who have remained faithful to the Holy See and belong to the “underground” Church.

Born in Shanghai, in a Catholic family, on January 13, 1932, Joseph Zen entered the Salesians as an aspirant at the age of 12. Four years later, he entered the minor seminary of the Salesians in Hong-Kong. Sent to Italy to achieve his studies, he was ordained to the priesthood in Turin, in 1961, before obtaining a PhD in philosophy in Rome in 1964. Back in Hong Kong, he taught at the Salesian House of Studies, and, as of 1971, he was professor at the diocesan seminary of the Holy Ghost. Elected Superior of the Salesian Chinese province, in 1978, he returned to the diocesan seminary in 1984 where he directed the first cycle of studies until 1991. In 1989, he was the first priest from the diocese of Hong-Kong to be authorized by China People’s Republic to go to the mainland and teach in “official” seminaries. From that time on, until his episcopal consecration in 1996, he spent approximately six months every year on the mainland in various seminaries of China People’s Republic. Later, relationships with Beijing became strained, and Bishop Zen was de facto persona non grata on the mainland. Things relaxed when, in April 2004, the bishop of Hong-Kong was invited to go on a pilgrimage to his native town of Shanghai.

In 2007, Benedict XVI had entrusted the meditations of the Via Crucis, to Italian Bible scholar, Bishop Gianfranco Ravasi, who has since then been appointed by the pope as the head of the Pontifical Council for Culture. The preceding year, Bishop Angelo Comastri, vicar of the Vatican City and Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, had written the meditation for the first Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum of Benedict XVI’s pontificate. A year earlier, in 2005, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger had been appointed to lead the Stations of the Cross in which John-Paul II could not take part because of his illness. The future pope had then likened the Church to a “boat ready to sink, a boat leaking at every seam.” (9th station)

In 1964, Paul VI renewed  the tradition of the Stations of the Cross at the Coliseum, which originated in the Holy Year 1750 during the pontificate of Benedict XIV. Saint Leonard de Port Maurice had 14 chapels built in the Coliseum for the 14 Stations of the Cross, as well as a large cross in the middle of the arena. He had been residing at St. Bonaventure’s Convent since 1730, and associated devotion to the Sacred Heart with the practice of the Way of the Cross. Saint Leonard de Port Maurice preached throughout Italy, and indefatigably set up Stations of the Cross (up to 572). Beatified in 1796, he was canonized by Pius IX in 1897. Pius XI proclaimed him patron of missionaries “within the Church” in 1923. (Sources: Apic/Imedia/EDA)