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Rome & the World: the implications of Cardinal Zen’s $500 fine

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I.Media - published on 11/29/22

Also in today's headlines: perhaps the biggest change in German church law • and understanding Cardinal Casaroli, much praised by Pope Francis

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Tuesday 29 November 2022
1.Cardinal Zen’s sentencing is about Hong Kong’s democracy
2. How German Catholics pushed Church’s slow reform
3. Who is Cardinal Casaroli, Pope Francis’ model diplomat? 
4. Lebanese presidential election: Patriarch Raï is impatient 
5. Benedict XVI was leader in the fight against abuse, according to Francis


On November 25, Hong Kong judge Ada Yim sentenced 90-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen to a fine of HK$4,000 (about US$510), after a closely followed trial. According to Ucanews, there are two possible interpretations. The first is that the verdict is a measure of intimidation, aimed at sending a warning to those who have believed and hoped in democracy, as a conviction against a popular religious leader is indeed unprecedented for Hong Kong. The second interpretation is that it could be that the sentence is an expression of a desire to quietly close a story that has been an embarrassment to Hong Kong’s police, judiciary and political authorities. For this conviction, the court relied on a 1911 law, which was used at the time to counter secret societies. This obsolete law, according to Ucanews, “shows the instrumental nature of the lawsuit against the Cardinal and his fellow sufferers.” The author of the article hopes that the story ends this way and that Cardinal Zen will not be called to answer for the crime of “collusion with foreign forces,” as it appeared following his arrest. As it stands, this trial is not “a message from China to the Vatican.” It is not about religious freedom, but about democracy and freedom in Hong Kong, the article explains. “I am in this affair not because of my religious identity, but as a citizen of Hong Kong who is committed to democracy,” explained Cardinal Zen himself, who was convicted not as a Catholic leader but as a democratic leader. Thus, for the author, “there is not enough awareness of the gravity of its political and social tragedy.” “After the fall of Hong Kong, the world enjoys less freedom, less democracy and no peace,” concludes the article.

UcaNews, English. 

2How German Catholics pushed Church’s slow reform

For several years now, the Catholic Church in Germany has been a pioneer in the reform of the Church and its structures. While in the last weeks all eyes have been on Rome, where German Bishops have been defending their agenda, openly opposing the Curia, the most important news has probably taken place in Germany, notes the German international media Deutsche Welle. In this country, where nearly 1% of the population works for the Catholic Church, it was previously impossible to hire a remarried divorcee or a homosexual. The German Constitution allowed this, as it gives religious communities self-determination in service or labor laws. However, due to pressure from church employees who demanded that it no longer be possible to fire someone based on their sexual orientation, these laws could be changed. Pushed through the Synodal Path, which has become the “the engine of urgently needed reforms” for the Church in Germany, a new law could be decided allowing for the hiring of homosexuals or divorcees. However, the implementation then depends on the authority of each bishop in his diocese. While some, like Cardinal Woelki in Cologne and Bishop Oster in Passau, have announced their wish to integrate this new regulation, others, like those of Regensburg or Augsburg, are much more resistant. The new law does not fully satisfy the advocates of the reform because it allows for dismissal for “anti-clerical behavior” without specifying the meaning of this remark. Some ask that the regulation recognize more than just two genders, male and female. Questions that could be discussed at the next session of the Synodal Path in March 2023.

Deutsche Welle, English

3. Who is Cardinal Casaroli, Pope Francis’ model diplomat? 

The Pillar published an article on Cardinal Agostino Casoroli, the Cold War architect of Ostpolitik, the pragmatic diplomatic strategy of taking small steps with the USSR to try to defuse tensions and avoid a total rupture of diplomatic relations. On the Chinese issue, Pope Francis has opted for this strategy.

The Pillar, English

4. Lebanese presidential election: Patriarch Raï is impatient 

The Maronite Patriarch Bechara Raï has again criticized the blocking of the presidential election, reports L’Orient le Jour. The Lebanese Cardinal believes that the Parliament “cannot continue to deliberately delay and manipulate the election of a new head of state” in Lebanon. 

L’Orient le jour, French

5. Benedict XVI was leader in the fight against abuse, according to Francis

The American news agency CNA reports on the Pope’s interview with America in which the Argentine pontiff acknowledges that Benedict XVI was the leader in the response to the abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. 

CNA, English. 

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