Cardinal Zen discusses his new book for Lent and concerns for the Church — By: Catholic News Agency

Joseph Cardinal Zen is bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. / Credit: The World Over with Raymond Arroyo

CNA Staff, Feb 2, 2024 / 16:22 pm (CNA).

In an interview on “The World Over with Raymond Arroyo” that aired Feb. 1, Cardinal Joseph Zen presented his new book, “Cardinal Zen’s Lenten Reflections” and addressed recent controversial matters within the Catholic Church.

Zen credited his friend Aurelio Porfiri, who had some of the cardinal’s previous pastoral letters and homilies translated for publication, for making the project possible.

Asked about the sections of Cardinal Zen’s Lenten Reflections that speak about persecution, the 92-year-old bishop emeritus of Hong Kong recalled that “the Church is always persecuted.” 

“Jesus said, ‘They don’t like you because they don’t like me,’ so we are going to be persecuted,” he pointed out.

“We should not desire persecution. But when the persecution comes, you have to be happy, because the strength which comes to the martyrs [is] not their own strength. The God who allows for persecution, he gives the strength,” he said.

During the interview, Arroyo asked Zen about Pope Francis’ Jan. 29 comments to the Italian newspaper La Stampa in which he referred to the rejection of Fiducia Supplicans by the African bishops as a “special case” because “for them, homosexuality is something ‘ugly’ from a cultural point of view; they do not tolerate it.”

“Actually, it’s not only Africa,” Zen said. “There are many other places, even some bishops in France, to my surprise.” 

Zen himself suggested last month that the author of Fiducia Supplicans, Cardinal Víctor Manuel Fernández, resign because of the confusion it has caused.

“They repeat very often that it’s a pastoral direction. And so they say, we want to avoid the confusion, though they said many things, which only made bigger confusion,” Zen noted.

Arroyo asked Zen how he thought his former mentor, the late Pope Benedict XVI, would have reacted to the document. 

“I think from all the magisterium of Pope Benedict, he has just one point — the truth,” Zen said.

“So it is very important to start from the truth. There is no right pastoral education, if not based on the truth of the faith,” he said.

“Now, the faith for so many centuries is very clear that sodomy is a serious thing. And so whenever we see misunderstanding, we have to have people to understand,” he added.

Asked to comment on the first session of the Synod on Synodality in Rome, Zen said that in his view, the synod organizers want “absolute democracy.”

Before the start of the synod last year, Zen voiced his concerns to his brother bishops and cardinals in a letter that was leaked to the media. 

“The synod secretariat is very efficient at the art of manipulation,” Zen wrote in the letter, adding that “often they claim not to have any agenda. This is truly an offense to our intelligence. Anybody can see which conclusions they are aiming at.”

Speaking to Arroyo, Zen said: “Now, the word synodality is a new word in the Church, so you need a clear explanation of what is our understanding of synodality, not just from the etymological source of the word, because the Church is using the word synod for so many centuries and synodality comes from synod.”

Zen said that “our people, they were simply taking [it] to mean more participation, more communion. But now we realize that they understand something different. And so they have another understanding, which I think, in simple words, this new synodality means democracy, just as they are talking about in Germany, or even at the very beginning, after Vatican [II], in the Netherlands,” he said.

“And so they want absolute democracy. Then if that is approved, anything can be changed, and the doctrine of faith and about morality,” Zen indicated.

Latin Mass restrictions

Zen also discussed the restrictions placed upon the celebration of the Traditional Latin Mass originally outlined in Pope Francis’ 2021 motu proprio Traditionis Custodes.

He said that he is “surprised about this strong campaign” to limit the Latin Mass. “At least as far as I know, those people who cherish that Mass, they are some good people.”

Zen said that people should be aware of the many different liturgical rites offered in the Church. 

“We have many Catholic dioceses of the Oriental rites,” Zen said. “They are very different from the post-Vatican II Mass. And so why should they be so worried about one more, which is not new, which was the Mass for years in the Church?” Zen said. 

Watch the full “World Over” interview with Zen below.

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