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Cardinal 'fasts' over court ruling

Church respects the court’s decision but Zen says its demand was correct

Cardinal Zen fasts in front of the Salesian House of Studies in Hong Kong Cardinal Zen fasts in front of the Salesian House of Studies in Hong Kong
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • Hong Kong
  • October 19, 2011
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Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun began a 72-hour abstention from food this morning to express his grief over a court ruling over a school management policy case.

The 79-year-old retired bishop of Hong Kong told a press conference today that while he objects to the ruling, the Church respects the court’s decision.

“We do not have to agree, however, that we were wrong in our demand.”

Cardinal Zen said he would remain at the entrance of the Salesian House of Studies and would abstain from food, except for water and the Holy Communion, until October 22.

Voluntary health workers will remain with the cardinal, who suffers from a heart ailment, to monitor his condition.

The cardinal's fast stems from an amended education ordinance in 2004 that requires all government-aided schools to form an incorporated management committee to replace the current management board.

After six years of litigation brought by the diocese seeking an exemption, the Court of Final Appeal last week rejected the case.

Cardinal Zen has said the new ordinance contradicts the Basic Law, which guarantees religious organizations’ right to run schools according to practices in place prior to the handover of Hong Kong by the UK in 1997.

The court in its ruling also gave “a new, very restrictive interpretation” of what practices receive protections, including morning prayers and religious instruction, Cardinal Zen said.

The issue in question, he said, was more about the right to govern schools.

“The content of religious and moral education is far more important than some concrete religious activities,” he said.

Cardinal Zen said today that the Church would not easily give up its right to run schools but might be forced to do so if it can no longer manage education according to its vision and mission.

Questions were also raised at the press conference about HK$20 million (US$2.56 million) given to the cardinal by media tycoon Jimmy Lai Chee-ying, a close associate of the prelate, between 2005 and 2010.

Local press reported yesterday that in addition to direct funding to the cardinal, Lai had also donated an additional HK$27 million to two pro-democracy parties and smaller amounts to other individuals, NGOs and Church institutions.

Cardinal Zen said he never asked for the donations and offered no thanks to Lai after receiving them.

He said that Lai knew “it was for me to do things which normally a bishop of a rich diocese will do.”

He said that the Hong Kong diocese was not a rich one, and that he has not asked the diocese or the Vatican for money to cover travel expenses incurred by attending meetings in Rome.

He added that the donations were used only for Church purposes including sponsoring Church institutions, helping the poor and providing pocket money to mainland Church visitors, and that he had no fears about issues of openness or transparency.

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The atheists running the Catholic Church

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