Catholic World Report
  • The Dispatch

    Cardinal Zen and Jimmy Lai among Hong Kongers nominated for Nobel Peace Prize 

    Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia’s highest-ranking Catholic clerics, arrives at a court for his trial in Hong Kong on Sept. 26, 2022. / Peter Parks/AFP via Getty Images

    St. Louis, Mo., Feb 3, 2023 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

    A bipartisan congressional commission chaired by Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, announced Thursday the nomination of six Hong Kongers, including Cardinal Joseph Zen and jailed Catholic media mogul Jimmy Lai, for the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts in the cause of human rights.

    “Jimmy Lai, Cardinal Joseph Zen, Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, Gwyneth Ho, Lee Cheuk-Yan, and Joshua Wong were nominated because they are ardent champions of Hong Kong’s autonomy, human rights, and the rule of law as guaranteed under the Sino-British Declaration and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the announcement from the U.S. Congressional-Executive Commission on China reads.

    “The nominees are representative of millions of Hong Kongers who peacefully opposed the steady erosion of the city’s democratic freedoms by the Hong Kong government and the government of the People’s Republic of China. Through the nomination, the members of Congress seek to honor all those in Hong Kong whose bravery and determination in the face of repression has inspired the world.”

    All of those nominated have been involved in Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement, especially since 2019, when large-scale protests against authoritarian Chinese rule erupted on the territory, which is a special administrative region of China.

    Hong Kongers have historically enjoyed greater freedom of religion than on the Chinese mainland, where religious believers of all stripes are routinely surveilled and restricted by the communist government. But in recent years, Beijing has sought to tighten control over religious practices in Hong Kong under the guise of protecting national security.

    Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 91, is the bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, having led the territory’s Catholics from 2002 to 2009. An outspoken advocate for religious freedom and democracy, Zen also is a sharp critic of the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with Beijing on the appointment of bishops, which was renewed in October 2022 for another two-year term.

    Zen was arrested last May by Hong Kong authorities and put on trial for allegedly failing to civilly register a pro-democracy fund. He was convicted and ordered to pay a fine, which he has appealed.

    The cardinal wrote on his blog on Jan. 31 that, following his return from Rome for Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral, he was receiving treatment in the hospital after experiencing difficulty breathing.

    Jimmy Lai Chee-ying is an entrepreneur and billionaire media mogul who converted to Catholicism in 1997. Lai has supported the Hong Kong pro-democracy movement for more than 30 years and has said that his Catholic faith is a major motivating factor in his pro-democracy advocacy. The newspaper he founded, Apple Daily, had distinguished itself over the years as a strongly pro-democracy publication critical of the Chinese government in Beijing before it was forced to shut down.

    Lai has been jailed since December 2020 for his involvement in pro-democracy protests and faces the possibility of being sentenced to life in prison under national security charges. On Dec. 13, 2022, a Hong Kong court delayed Lai’s national security trial, initially scheduled for that month, until September 2023.

    Two of the other nominees were initially sentenced to jail time alongside Lai. One is Tonyee Chow Hang-tung, a lawyer and vice-chair of a now-shuttered civil society group, who was arrested in connection with a 2020 vigil commemorating the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Gwyneth Ho Kwai-lam, a journalist, was detained on a national security charge for peacefully participating in an opinion poll ahead of an election.

    Also nominated is Lee Cheuk-yan, a veteran labor rights advocate and former legislator sentenced for joining unauthorized assemblies, who is facing additional criminal allegations on national security grounds.

    Finally, Joshua Wong Chi-fung had been previously imprisoned for his role in organizing protests in Hong Kong in 2014. In the summer of 2019, he participated in large-scale pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. In November 2021, three pro-democracy activists, including Wong, pleaded guilty to charges related to their roles in an “illegal assembly” in 2019. The next month, they were each sentenced to months in prison, with the possibility that they will face further charges.

    Other Catholic pro-democracy organizers in Hong Kong have been recognized for their work in recent years. In 2021, Martin Lee Chu-ming, a Catholic lawyer who helped found the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong, was nominated for the prize.

    […]

  • The Dispatch

    Bishop Barron says Minnesota’s new abortion law is ‘the worst kind of barbarism’

    Bishop Robert Barron spoke out against Minnesota’s new abortion law after it passed Jan. 31, 2023. / Credit: Bishop Robert Barron/YouTube

    Boston, Mass., Feb 2, 2023 / 12:45 pm (CNA).

    Winona-Rochester Bishop Robert Barron called a newly passed Minnesota abortion bill that enshrines abortion rights into law “the worst kind of barbarism.”

    “I want to share with you my anger, my frustration over this terrible law that was just signed by the governor in Minnesota — the most really extreme abortion law that’s on the books in the wake of the Roe v. Wade reversal,” Barron said in a Jan. 31 video on social media following Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s signing of the bill on Tuesday.

    The bill, titled the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, enshrines a constitutional right to “reproductive freedom,” ensuring the right to abortion in Minnesota up to birth for any reason, as well as the right to contraception and sterilization.

    “Basically, it eliminates any kind of parental notifications so a 12-year-old child can get an abortion without even telling her parents about it,” Barron said. 

    “But the worst thing,” he added, “is it basically permits abortion all the way through pregnancy up to the very end. And indeed, indeed if a child somehow survives a botched abortion, the law now prohibits an attempt to save that child’s life.”

    Protection for abortion in the state had preexisted the new law because the state’s Supreme Court ruled in the 1995 decision Doe v. Gomez that a woman had a constitutional right to abortion. Several restrictions to abortion in the state have also been ruled unconstitutional in the courts in prior years, the AP reported. Sponsors of the bill supported it because they wanted abortion protections in law, despite the political leaning of future appointed justices, the AP reported.

    Pro-life advocates fiercely opposed the bill, as it gained national attention and underwent several hours of debate in the state Senate. The pro-life advocacy organization Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America called the legislation “the most extreme bill in the country.” 

    Barron said that “I don’t know why this is really debated anymore in our country, but this strikes me as just the worst kind of barbarism. And in the name of, I don’t know, subjectivity, and freedom, and choice and all this, we’re accepting this kind of brutality.”

    Barron’s condemnation of the law echoes that of the Minnesota bishops who raised their voices against it before its passage. 

    The states’ bishops wrote in a Jan. 26 statement: “To assert such unlimited autonomy is to usurp a prerogative that belongs to God alone. Authorizing a general license to make and take life at our whim will unleash a host of social and spiritual consequences with which we as a community will have to reckon.”

    In his video, Barron added: “What strikes me is this: If a child is born and now a day old, or two days old and resting peacefully in his bassinet and someone broke into the house and with a knife killed the child and dismembered him, well, the whole country would rise up in righteous indignation.”

    “But yet, that same thing can happen with complete impunity as the child is in his mother’s womb about to be born. Again, I just think this is so beyond the pale and that we’ve so lost our way on this issue,” he said.

    He acknowledged that there was no possibility of blocking the now-enacted legislation, but said that “we can certainly keep raising our voices in protest.”

    “We can keep praying for an end to this barbaric regime in our country,” he said.

    […]

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