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Fasting cardinal inspires supporters

Prelate gives "full marks" for health as fast enters final day

Fasting cardinal inspires supporters
Two priests and a reporter from Macau visit the fasting Cardinal Zen reporter, Hong Kong
Hong Kong

October 21, 2011

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While many might think it a difficult step, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, 79, has a higher purpose for his three-day abstinence from food to express his grief over a court ruling on educational management. “This is to leave a record in history,” the ailing Cardinal said. Cardinal Zen announced his abstinence from food after an appeals court rejected a diocesan objection to new regulations governing the appointment of teachers and the management of educational administrators earlier this week. The effort also coincided with media reports alleging financial improprieties on the part of the cardinal. Hundreds of people of all ages have visited the Salesian House of Studies, in front of which Cardinal Zen has staged his fast. The retired prelate told visitors that he gave his health condition “full marks” but said he felt tired as his fast entered the final day. Salesian seminarians have taken turns monitoring the cardinal every few hours. Cardinal Zen has insisted on staying put in front of the Salesian House, taking only water so as not to be accused of taking meals on the sly. “I trust in the cardinal’s integrity and noble character,” said Peter Chan, a retired educator who visited Salesian House to show his support. Chan added that he appreciated the cardinal’s frankness in rebutting accusations of financial malfeasance. Eric Lai, a university student who also came to Salesian House to show his support, said he appreciated the cardinal’s witness to the truth. “Seeing the elderly cardinal’s example, we lay people and other clergy should reflect on how we can extend our charity beyond the church through showing our concern for social justice.” Other visitors, who are recent immigrants to Hong Kong, expressed concerns over the effect of the fast on the cardinal, who they call “grandpa.” “[He] is so nice. We lived in poverty without any relatives or friends. It was fortunate that grandpa helped us generously. Otherwise, we could not have survived.” Many immigrants from mainland China say they have been socially marginalized in Hong Kong, and that the prelate, at that time a bishop, went to the Home of Love run by the Missionaries of Charity to celebrate daily Masses to show solidarity with the poor. Clare Cheung, a volunteer at the Home of Love, said many immigrants have shared memories of happier days with their “grandpa” as they prayed for the fasting cardinal. “He really spent lots of time and money on the poor, including going on picnics with children, organizing Christmas parties, buying gifts and handing out red packets during the Lunar New Year,” she said. A Salesian priest who asked not to be named said he had called on his parishioners to support the cardinal. “The cardinal’s upright personality earned him the nickname “tiger” when he taught at our seminary. His thoughts are always faster than others, particularly when confronting injustice.” The priest said that this week’s ruling on school management policy showed that the Hong Kong government no longer treasures Christian organizations as partners in education. Related reports: Cardinal ‘fasts’ over court ruling

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