Thursday, June 21, 2007

Cardinal Zen's White House visit

~from Washington Post by Robert Novak

On May 31, President Bush met for 35 minutes in the private living quarters of the White House with Cardinal Joseph Zen, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Hong Kong, in an event that was not announced and did not appear on his official schedule. Their meeting did not please the State Department, elements of the Catholic hierarchy and certainly not the Chinese government. But it signifies what George W. Bush is really about.

In Hong Kong, Zen enjoys more freedom to speak out than do his fellow bishops in China proper, and he has become known as the spiritual voice of China's beleaguered democracy movement. Since Hong Kong was handed over to Beijing by the British government in 1997, he has increasingly called for both religious freedom and democracy in China. Consequently, the China desk at the State Department in Washington and the U.S. Embassy in Beijing contended that, for the sake of Sino-American relations, it would be a bad idea for the president to invite the cardinal. So did some of Zen's fellow cardinals.

...In a city abounding in leaks, I first learned on June 13 about the cardinal's visit to the White House via a circuitous route, from an American Catholic layman. That same day, Raymond Arroyo of the Eternal Word Television Network, acclaimed reporter of Catholic news, made public that the meeting took place.

Bush asked Zen whether he was the "bishop of all China." Replying that his diocese was just Hong Kong, Zen told Bush of the plight of Catholics in China, including five imprisoned bishops. The cardinal is reported by sources close to him to have left the White House energized and inspired. George W. Bush is at a low point among his fellow citizens, but he is still a major figure for Catholics in China who look to him as a clarion of freedom.

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