Viewing cable 06HONGKONG4288
Title: CARDINAL ZEN REQUESTS RETIREMENT AS BISHOP OF HONG

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06HONGKONG42882006-11-02 04:20:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Consulate Hong Kong
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DE RUEHHK #4288/01 3060420
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 020420Z NOV 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
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INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HONG KONG 004288 
 
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E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/02/2031 
TAGS: PGOV PHUM PINR PREL HK CH VT
SUBJECT: CARDINAL ZEN REQUESTS RETIREMENT AS BISHOP OF HONG 
KONG; WANTS TO FOCUS ON SINO-VATICAN RELATIONS 
 
REF: HONG KONG 2949 
 
HONG KONG 00004288  001.2 OF 003 
 
 
Classified By: E/P Chief Laurent Charbonnet. Reasons: 1.4 (b, d). 
 
¶1. (C) Summary:  Monsignor Eugene Nugent, the papal 
representative in Hong Kong, told us that even though 
Cardinal Joseph Zen has publicly stated his desire to retire 
as Bishop of the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese in order to 
concentrate on Sino-Vatican issues, he did not believe that 
the Pope had any immediate plans to accept Zen's resignation 
now.  Some Vatican officials have expressed concern that 
Zen's retirement as Bishop might diminish his authority to 
speak out on religious freedom issues in China.  Separately, 
local mainland authorities reportedly deceived Bishop An 
Shuxin, the underground Bishop of Baoding Diocese in Hebei 
Province, about the conditions of his release from prison. 
While An believed that he had only agreed to register with 
the Government, he also unwittingly registered with the 
Catholic Patriotic Association, a clear violation of Vatican 
policy.  Chinese religious authorities, opined Nugent, wanted 
to place as many of their "own people" into positions of 
authority within the Catholic Church before any 
reconciliation between the Vatican and Beijing, especially in 
Hebei Province, a traditional stronghold of the underground 
Catholic community.  Nugent also said that  the visit of 
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and Monsignor Gianfranco Rota 
Graziosi to Beijing in June may have generated some goodwill 
between Vatican and Beijing negotiators, and that high level 
religious officials may have told provincial and diocesan 
officials to hold off on additional illicit bishop 
ordinations for now.  End Summary. 
 
Pope Not Likely to Allow Zen to Retire Now, Says Nugent 
--------------------------------------------- ---------- 
 
¶2. (C) Monsignor Eugene Nugent, the papal representative in 
Hong Kong, told us on October 13 that Cardinal Joseph Zen had 
submitted his resignation letter during his first private 
audience with the Pope on September 27.  Zen told the press 
that he wanted to retire as Bishop of the Hong Kong Catholic 
Diocese because he hoped to play a greater role in 
Sino-Vatican affairs.  The Cardinal will turn 75 on January 
13, 2007; and according to canon law, all diocesan bishops 
are required to submit their resignations to the Pope upon 
turning 75.  Zen previously submitted his resignation letter 
to the Pope on his 74th birthday, but received instructions 
at that time to remain at his post until further notice; two 
months later he was elevated to Cardinal.  After his 
fifteen-minute meeting with the Pope, Zen told the "South 
China Morning Post" (SCMP) on September 28 that "the Holy 
Father said he will consider it and said he will give me an 
answer next time."  Nugent understood the Pope's remarks to 
mean Zen was to hold off on retirement plans, for now. 
 
¶3. (C) Nugent said that with all of Zen's recent remarks to 
the press regarding his resignation plans, he sometimes 
wasn't sure if Zen was either extremely media savvy or 
perhaps a bit naive when dealing with the press. 
Nevertheless, Zen's candid comments about his retirement 
plans have sparked press speculation about possible 
replacements for him at the Hong Kong Catholic Diocese. 
Nugent told us that without direct instruction from the Holy 
See to begin a search for a new Bishop, he was simply not 
authorized to come up with a list of possible candidates.  He 
added that to do so would be strange and "discourteous." 
Nugent acknowledged that two names identified in the press as 
possible candidates -- Vicar-General Dominic Chan and 
Auxiliary Bishop John Tong -- were obvious frontrunners, but 
that there had been no instruction from the Holy See to begin 
the vetting process.  And if the Pope eventually accepted 
Zen's resignation, it was unclear whether the Cardinal might 
be considered for another role within the Vatican structure, 
said Nugent. 
 
¶4. (C) It was clear that the Pope valued Zen's dual role as 
both defender of universal suffrage and freedom in Hong Kong, 
as well as advisor to the Vatican on its China policy. 
However, if Zen retired as Bishop of the Hong Kong Catholic 
Diocese he would lose his administrative base and simply 
become a retired Cardinal commenting on China policy, 
maintained Zen.  Some Vatican officials have expressed 
concern that Zen's retirement as Bishop might diminish his 
authority to speak out on religious freedom issues in China. 
Zen has publicly stated his desire to play a greater role in 
the Holy See's policy towards China, but Nugent already 
informally consults with the Cardinal on many matters related 
 
HONG KONG 00004288  002.2 OF 003 
 
 
to Sino-Vatican affairs. 
 
¶5. (C) Zen again urged the Pope to consider convening a 
symposium to review and discuss the Vatican's China policy 
during his meeting in Rome, revealed Nugent.  Now that the 
Pope had all of his top advisors in place, Nugent opined that 
there was a real possibility that the Vatican would hold such 
a meeting and would likely invite various experts on 
Sino-Vatican relations, Zen, and Cardinal Paul Shan from 
Taiwan. 
 
Bishop An Registers with Patriotic Association Unknowingly 
--------------------------------------------- ------------- 
 
¶6. (C) The August 24 release of Bishop An Shuxin, the 
underground Bishop of Baoding Diocese in Hebei Province, 
after a decade in detention, sparked speculation among the 
Catholic community about the terms of his release.  According 
to an August 26 "AsiaNews" report, before local authorities 
released An, he and the local authorities agreed that he 
would register with the Government but would not be required 
to register with the Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA), 
which would be a violation of Vatican policy.  Nugent, who 
has reviewed the documents related to An's release, said that 
while An believed that he did not register with the CPA, he 
was deceived into registering with the Committee for 
Religious Affairs, a subcommittee of the CPA. 
 
¶7. (C) Nugent says that Bishop An, who was a "simple man" and 
not "theologically formed," was manipulated into violating 
Vatican policy.  In recent months, local authorities only 
allowed three young priests to visit An in prison.  These 
priests, who were also involved in commercial and political 
interests beyond their normal responsibilities as priests, 
were originally from the underground church but had been 
"worked on by local authorities," stated Nugent.  After 
numerous visits, these priests eventually persuaded An to 
agree to register with the Government in exchange for his 
release and to work on reconciliation efforts between the 
underground and official church.  What An did not, and 
perhaps still does not understand, was that he had 
registered, albeit indirectly, with the Catholic Patriotic 
Association, said Nugent. 
 
¶8. (C) Bishop An, perhaps unwittingly, violated another 
Vatican policy by concelebrating the eucharist with PRC 
Government-recognized Bishop Su Changshan, the auxiliary 
Bishop of Baoding Diocese.  Around the same time that An was 
released, Bishop Su, who along with four others, was ordained 
in 2000 without Vatican approval and is still not recognized 
by the Holy See, sent a letter to the Vatican asking for 
papal recognition.  It was clear, said Nugent, that the 
Chinese authorities orchestrated An's release to coincide 
with Su's letter to the Pope.  Catholics from the underground 
church were aware that An had violated Vatican policies and 
were deliberately staying away from mass if presided over by 
Bishop An.  All of these actions in Baoding Diocese were an 
effort to further Government efforts to control the 
underground church in Hebei, said Nugent, which has the 
largest concentration of Catholics in China and was a 
stronghold of the underground Catholic community.  Local 
authorities, opined Nugent, wanted to place as many of their 
"own people" into positions of authority within the Catholic 
Church before reconciliation between the Vatican and Beijing 
took place. 
 
Vatican's June Visit to Beijing Generates Goodwill 
--------------------------------------------- ----- 
 
¶9. (C) Over the summer, Chinese officials threatened to 
ordain additional bishops without Vatican approval, but thus 
far they have not initiated any additional illicit 
ordinations since May.  Nugent speculated that the visit of 
Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli and Monsignor Gianfranco Rota 
Graziosi to Beijing in June may have generated some goodwill 
between Vatican and Beijing negotiators, and that perhaps 
high level religious officials told provincial and diocesan 
officials to hold off on illicit ordinations for now. 
 
Bishop Jia Zhiguo Released for Administrative Reasons 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
¶10. (C) Bishop Jia Zhiguo of Zhengding, Hebei Province, was 
released from police custody on September 25, after being 
held for ten months for "study sessions" and pressured to 
join the Catholic Patriotic Association, according to various 
 
HONG KONG 00004288  003.2 OF 003 
 
 
media reports.  A September 26 "AsiaNews" report speculated 
that local officials decided to release Jia because they were 
concerned that local parishioners might organize "popular 
protests" demanding the underground Bishop's release around 
the October 1 Chinese National Day holiday, but added that he 
would likely be detained again after the holiday.  (Note: 
This has not yet come to pass.  End Note.)  Nugent told us 
that Jia's release was not related to possible protests or 
change in policies on religious freedom, but was a result of 
administrative and logistical issues instead.  Jia was 
released prior to Chinese National Day since many of the 
security officials detailed to monitor him had time off or 
had been called away to provide security for other events 
related to the holiday celebrations. 
 
Recent Arrests of Chinese Catholic Clergy 
----------------------------------------- 
 
¶11. (C) Two underground Chinese priests, recently returned 
from a visit to Rome where they met with the Pope, were 
arrested on September 25 by local authorities who feared that 
one of them had been secretly ordained a Bishop by the Pope, 
said Nugent.  Father Shao Zhoumin, the vicar general of 
Wenzhou diocese in Zhejiang Province, and Father Jiang 
Sunian, the chancellor of Wenzhou diocese, both of whom have 
been imprisoned before, were arrested in Shenzhen after the 
pair stopped by Hong Kong to meet with Nugent.  The pair had 
told him they intended to visit a Catholic friend in Shenzhen 
before returning home to Wenzhou and mentioned that they were 
particularly nervous because they were carrying numerous 
photos of their visit to the Vatican.  Chinese officials were 
suspicious that one of the young priests had been secretly 
ordained a Bishop by the Pope, so they sent over thirty 
Wenzhou police to Shenzhen to detain the two priests and 
transport them back to Wenzhou.  According to media reports, 
Shao and Jiang will be charged with possession of illegal 
travel documents.  Nugent has heard that it was common for 
some Catholics from the underground church to use or borrow 
someone else's travel documents in order to travel abroad, in 
order to skirt travel restrictions on underground Catholic 
clergy. 
 
¶12. (C) Nugent also recounted the story of a young 
underground priest from Zhejiang Province who received 
funding to continue his theological studies in the U.S.  He 
recently traveled to Guangzhou with the rector of his 
seminary to apply for a visa from the U.S. Consulate, 
Guangzhou.  Though the young priest was successful in 
securing a U.S. visa, the local police from his hometown 
issued a search warrant for him while he and his rector were 
in still in Guangzhou.  According to Nugent, the prospective 
student was currently in hiding, while the rector was under a 
form of "strange" soft detention back home.  While the rector 
has been able to continue his duties running the seminary, he 
was required to register and sleep at a Government-designated 
guesthouse every evening, at his own cost. 
 
Illicitly Ordained Bishops Have Reached Out to Pope 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 
 
¶13. (C) One of the official bishops who participated in the 
illicit ordination ceremony of Bishop Liu Xinhong of Anhui 
Province has not yet sent a letter of clarification to the 
Pope, said Nugent.  This Bishop, heard Nugent, would visit 
Hong Kong shortly with two political "bigwigs" but, 
unusually, had not yet contacted Nugent or Zen for a meeting. 
 According to Nugent, most of the bishops involved in the 
summer's illicit ordinations, including those who were 
ordained without Vatican approval and those who attended the 
ordination ceremonies, have written personal letters to the 
Pope "explaining" their actions. 
 
Beijing Fears Increased Vatican Presence in Hong Kong 
--------------------------------------------- -------- 
 
¶14. (C) According to Nugent, the Chinese authorities were 
very curious about his plans to relocate his office from Hong 
Kong Island to a larger space in Kowloon and worried that 
this was an indication that the Vatican was planning to 
increase its presence in Hong Kong (see reftel).  Nugent told 
us that he has had to be careful about the hiring of 
contractors and security for the new office space but hopes 
that it will be finished before the end of the year. 
Cunningham