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Cardinal Zen takes the church to Hong Kong airwaves

He will use the hour-long weekly broadcast to relate Bible stories to social issues
Cardinal Zen takes the church to Hong Kong airwaves

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, left, and a radio DJ appear in a promotional photo for the cardinal's new public radio program in Hong Kong. (Photo courtesy of Cardinal Zen's Bible Stories)

Published: October 20, 2015 09:20 AM GMT
Updated: October 19, 2015 11:51 PM GMT

The Catholic Church in Hong Kong is taking to the airwaves, with a retired cardinal hoping to use a secular radio station to reach a new audience.

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong has become one of the newest voices on Hong Kong radio, taking the helm of a 13-week program now being broadcast on the government-run station, Radio Television Hong Kong.

"I hope to bring the church's message to the Hong Kong people through the telling of Bible stories," Cardinal Zen told ucanews.com.

The program, which is called "Cardinal Zen's Bible Stories," was chosen from among 132 proposals in an open call for a new community radio program.

But the cardinal had to make it past a round of interviews with the station's production team in March. Cardinal Zen said the panel was "shocked" when he first appeared, because his original application was submitted by a group of laypeople with whom he had partnered.

The producers also feared that the outspoken cardinal would use the new platform to talk about sensitive political issues. Cardinal Zen, however, assured the producers he would spend the hour-long weekly broadcast on social issues.

"They asked me if I will be talking about [political] things and I told them that I could also talk about morality," he said.

The Monday evening program, which first aired on Oct. 12, features the cardinal introducing one figure from the Bible, followed by laypeople playing a related radio drama. Each show then concludes with a reflection by the cardinal.

Louis Kwan, a Hong Kong resident who listened to the inaugural program, said the show could help people better understand Bible stories, such as the story of Noah, which could be related to the plight of marginalized overseas workers and new mainland migrants in Hong Kong.

Still, as with any new program, "Cardinal Zen's Bible Stories" could use a few improvements.

Kwan reckons the one-hour format is too long and that the show suffers from a lack of audience interaction.

"It would be more interesting if there is a phone-in section," he said.

Cardinal Zen's program, which the radio station subsidizes by HK$15,000 (US$1,900) each week, is scheduled to end Jan. 10.

It's not the first time the church has tried to evangelize using public media platforms. In 2001, the Hong Kong Diocesan Audio-Video Center produced a series of programs that aired on public buses, entitled "God on the Bus." The program was estimated to have reached more than 1.3 million commuters.

Since 2007, the Living Spring Foundation, a lay group, has broadcast a five-minute program called "More Than Money" on a privately owned financial channel.

"We found that evangelization at the parish level is limited in its outreach and thus we decided to use the airwaves to spread the church message further," Peter Kao, president of the foundation, told ucanews.com.

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