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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
06HONGKONG4288 2006-11-02 04:20:00 CONFIDENTIAL//NOFORN Consulate Hong Kong
Cable title:  

CARDINAL ZEN REQUESTS RETIREMENT AS BISHOP OF HONG

Tags:   PGOV PHUM PINR PREL HK CH VT 
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DE RUEHHK #4288/01 3060420
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P 020420Z NOV 06
FM AMCONSUL HONG KONG
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9279
INFO RUEHOO/CHINA POSTS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHROV/AMEMBASSY VATICAN PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 HONG KONG 004288 

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DEPT FOR EAP AND EAP/CM
NSC FOR DENNIS WILDER

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


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--------------------------





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


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--------------------------





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


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--------------------------





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


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--------------------------





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


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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


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--------------------------





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


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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