The Dispatch

Cardinal Zen ‘very concerned’ about Synod on Synodality

January 17, 2023 Catholic News Agency 5
Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Hong, attends the funeral Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI on Jan. 5, 2023, in St. Peter’s Square. / Credit: Diane Montagna

Rome, Italy, Jan 17, 2023 / 07:21 am (CNA).

Cardinal Joseph Zen has said that he is “very concerned” about what could happen with the ongoing Synod on Synodality and that he is praying that “our pope will have greater wisdom.”

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Giornale published on Jan. 17, Zen said he hopes the synod will change from its current course.

“I fear that the synod is repeating the same mistake of the Dutch Church 50 years ago when the bishops backtracked and accepted the faithful to lead the Church; then their number decreased,” he said.

The retired bishop of Hong Kong was likely referring to the Pastoral Council of Noordwijkerhout held in the Netherlands between 1966 and 1970, which called for Church authority to be carried out in dialogue, for women to assume ecclesial roles, and for priestly celibacy to be optional in the Church.

The council followed the publication of the “Dutch Catechism,” a text so controversial that Pope Paul VI asked a commission of cardinals to examine its presentation of Catholic teaching. 

In the interview, Cardinal Zen also reflected on his private meeting with Pope Francis when he was allowed to travel to Rome for the funeral of Pope Benedict XVI earlier this month, calling it “a wonderful meeting, very warm.”

“I thanked the pope for the good bishop appointed to Hong Kong in 2021,” Zen said, referring to Hong Kong Bishop Stephen Chow.

He said Pope Francis replied: “’I know it well, he is a Jesuit!’”

The cardinal, who turned 91 last week, also told the pope about how he has dedicated his time over the past decade to prison ministry in Hong Kong and has baptized several prisoners: “Francis said that he was very happy for my ministry.”

Zen himself was arrested last year under Hong Kong’s national security law. He said that Catholics in China are living in a difficult situation and “we must never forget to pray in these difficult times.”

“Many faithful bear witness to their faith conscientiously but we know that when the situation becomes difficult, some think only of their own interests. We continue to uphold truth, justice, and charity. Darkness will not win over the light,” he said.


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Pope Francis announces ecumenical prayer service, reflects on St. John the Baptist’s ‘spirit of service’

January 15, 2023 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis delivers his Angelus address in St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 15, 2023. / Vatican Media

Vatican City, Jan 15, 2023 / 06:17 am (CNA).

In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis encouraged Christians to cultivate the virtue of knowing “how to step aside” in order to bear witness to Jesus, as St. John the Baptist did.

The pope also announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

Speaking from the window of the Apostolic Palace on Jan. 15, the pope shared lessons from St. John the Baptist’s “spirit of service.”

Pope Francis said that St. John was “not interested in having a following for himself, in gaining prestige and success, but he bears witness and then steps back, so that many may have the joy of meeting Jesus.”

He reflected on St. John’s words after baptizing Jesus in the Jordan River: “‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.” (John 1: 29-30).

“This declaration, this testimony, reveals John’s spirit of service,” the pope said. “Humanly speaking, one would think that he would be given a ‘prize,’ a prominent place in Jesus’ public life. But no. John, having accomplished his mission, knows how to step aside, he withdraws from the scene to make way for Jesus.”

In this way, St. John the Baptist teaches “freedom from attachments” and “gratuitousness, taking care of others without benefit for oneself,” he said.

“Because it is easy to become attached to roles and positions, to the need to be esteemed, recognized and rewarded,” the pope reflected.

“It is good for us, too, to cultivate, like John, the virtue of setting ourselves aside at the right moment, bearing witness that the point of reference of life is Jesus.”

The crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his Angelus address on Jan. 15, 2023. Vatican Media
The crowd gathered in St. Peter’s Square to hear Pope Francis deliver his Angelus address on Jan. 15, 2023. Vatican Media

Pope Francis recommended self-reflection on the following questions: “Do we attract others to Jesus, or to ourselves? And furthermore, following the example of John: Do we know how to rejoice in the fact that people take their own path and follow their calling, even if this entails some detachment from us? Do we rejoice in their achievements with sincerity and without envy?”

At the end of his general audience, Pope Francis announced that an ecumenical prayer vigil will take place in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 30, 2023, as part of the Church’s ongoing Synod on Synodality.

The ecumenical prayer vigil, organized by the Taizé Community, will “entrust to God the work of the 16th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops,” set to take place in two sessions from Oct. 4 to 29, 2023, and in October 2024.

“Starting now, I invite our brothers and sisters of all Christian denominations to participate in this gathering of the People of God,” the pope said.

Pope Francis also highlighted the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, which will begin this week on Jan. 18, noting that the “path to Christian unity and the Church’s journey to synodal conversion are linked.”

“We thank the Lord who faithfully and patiently guides his people toward full communion, and we ask the Holy Spirit to enlighten and sustain us with his gifts,” he said.

The pope urged people “not to forget the martyred people of Ukraine, who are suffering so much” and to remain close to them with aid and prayers.

He also greeted pilgrims who traveled to Rome from across the globe. “May your visit to St. Peter’s tomb strengthen your faith and your witness,” he said.