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Cardinal Zen upbeat despite Hong Kong arrest

Hong Kong’s outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen remains defiant after appearing in court in a case under the national security law.

Published: May 27, 2022 11:12 AM GMT

Updated: May 27, 2022 11:30 AM GMT

Hundreds of Catholics defied drizzle and flocked to attend a Mass on Tuesday night celebrated by Hong Kong’s outspoken Cardinal Joseph Zen shortly after he appeared at a court hearing.

Cardinal Zen was arrested earlier this month under Hong Kong’s draconian national security law along with four other activists on charges of “colluding with foreign forces.” The arrestees were trustees of a now-defunct fund that supported pro-democracy protesters in the former British colony by paying their legal and medical bills amid a heavy government crackdown.

This sparked global outrage over renewed attacks on freedom and democracy in the politically troubled city at the behest of China’s communist regime. Cardinal Zen pleaded not guilty in court and resolved to face the trial set to begin in September.

Hong Kong Diocese issued a statement saying it would closely monitor the development of the case, adding that Cardinal Zen was "always in our prayers."

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia's highest-ranking Catholic clerics, celebrates Mass at Holy Cross Church in Hong Kong on May 24

Retired Cardinal Joseph Zen, one of Asia's highest-ranking Catholic clerics, celebrates Mass at Holy Cross Church in Hong Kong on May 24. (Photo: AFP)

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In mainland China, a Vatican-approved Catholic bishop remains in detention more than one year after he was arrested for allegedly violating repressive regulations on religious affairs.

Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang in Henan province was detained on May 21 last year, a day after police raided a Catholic seminary and arrested 10 priests and an unknown number of seminarians. The arrests were part of an ongoing crackdown on Catholic institutes in the diocese.

Bishop Joseph Zhang Weizhu of Xinxiang was arrested on May 21 last year. (Photo: Bitter Winter/Weibo)

Catholic schools and kindergartens were shut down by security forces citing a ban on education by religious groups in the communist country. The 63-year-old bishop has been targeted by communist authorities for his repeated refusal to join state-controlled church bodies.

Since his secret ordination in 1991 with a Vatican mandate, he has been arrested several times but later released. He was barred from observing his duties as a bishop. Local Catholics have expressed concerns over the bishop’s health as he had surgery for cancer shortly before his latest arrest.   

Natural disasters have hit parts of Asia with millions in India and Bangladesh reeling from deadly floods and heat waves. Catholics have joined relief and rescue efforts after flooding affected 22 districts in Assam state of eastern India.

The situation was critical for 720,000 people as floodwater submerged vast areas, destroying crops and houses and triggering a humanitarian crisis. The disaster has left at least 24 dead. Church groups provided food, water, dry rations and medicine to affected communities.

Officials of Guwahati Archdiocese distribute dry rations to people in a flood-affected area in Assam on May 21. (Photo supplied)

Flooding has caused similar havoc in neighboring Bangladesh, leaving at least 1.5 million people in the Sylhet region in dire conditions. Authorities said the worst flood in 20 years saw residences and businesses in many areas go under water, vast cropland inundated and people hit with shortages of food and drinking water.

Meanwhile, a deadly heat wave, rising above 48 degree Celsius, has swept over parts of India and Pakistan killing at least 90 people. 

Filippinos are joining Catholics around the world to mark the seventh anniversary of Pope Francis’ landmark environmental encyclical Laudato Si’. They have engaged in a series of activities to take care of the environment during Laudato Si’ Week from May 22 to May 29.

Several dioceses are making a collective effort to resolve the climate crisis by addressing the loss of biodiversity and saving marine life. Cebu Archdiocese organized the first-ever underwater clean-up drive on Tuesday.

A child wades through the trash-filled and polluted waters of a river running through a slum in Philippine capital Manila. (Photo: AFP)

Divers, boat owners and volunteers from all over the region participated in the removal of trash lying on seabeds. Several resorts, socio-civic groups and the Jesuits were partners in the drive. About 90 percent of the garbage was identified as non-biodegradable.

Filipino Catholic Bishops’ Conference president Bishop Pablo David called on Catholics to make a collective effort in cleaning up the environment. He insisted that one cannot remain unsympathetic to the desperate condition of the world’s environment.

A court in Sri Lanka has ordered a travel ban on a Catholic priest for expressing solidarity with nationwide protests calling for the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over a worsening economic crisis.

The Criminal Investigation Department told activist priest Father Amila Jeewantha Pieris about the ban on Monday. The priest has joined the month-long protests in front of the presidential secretariat in capital Colombo.

Sri Lankan police use tear gas to disperse students during a demonstration demanding the resignation of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa over the country's crippling economic crisis in Colombo on May 21. (Photo: AFP)

The priest said he won’t give in to such intimidation and people will continue their struggle until the president and newly ordained Prime Minister Ranil Wickramasinghe resign.

Father Peiris had earlier lodged a complaint with a court after pro-government supporters attacked and wounded at least 150 protesters on May 9. The ensuing violence left six people dead. 

Catholic activists have called for a fair probe into a series of arson attacks that left homes and other buildings gutted in Indonesia’s restive Papua province. The attacks began after residents of Catholic-majority Dogiyai district rejected plans for a new police station. Some residents suspect the attacks could have been carried out by security forces.

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Father Bernard Baru, chairman of the Augustinian Order of the Justice and Peace Commission in Papua, called on police to reveal the mastermind and motive for the attacks.

The gutted office of the West Papua National Committee (KNPB) in Dogiyai district, Papua province, on May 23. (Photo supplied)

Local people said the arson attacks began on May 3 and several attacks took place on the nights of May 22 and May 23.

A source confirmed gunshots were heard and members of the security forces were embroiled in clashes with youths, leaving a 23-year-old shot and wounded. The violence is the latest in the long-running conflict in Christian-majority Papua that has endured a bloody insurgency for independence from Indonesia for decades.

Vietnamese Catholics in the century-old Sapa Parish of Lao Cai province paid tribute to a French missionary who sacrificed his life for ethnic Hmong villagers.

Seven priests and hundreds of Catholics celebrated a Mass last Wednesday to mark the 74th death anniversary of Father Jean Pierre Idiart Alhor Thinh, a member of the Paris Foreign Missions Society commonly known as MEP.

Priests and Catholics offer incense and flowers on the graves of Father Jean Pierre Idiart Alhor Thinh and Bishop Paul Ramond in cold weather at Sapa church on May 18. (Photo supplied)

The missionary was devoted to serving and evangelizing among ethnic communities northern Vietnam since 1933. He worked among local communities and learned the Hmong language to be close with them. The 44-year-old priest was beheaded on the morning of May 18, 1948, while he was kneeling to pray and preparing to celebrate Mass.

The killing occurred during a period of fighting between the French and communist forces. However, the identities of those who killed him have not been found. He was buried next to the grave of French MEP Bishop Paul Ramond Loc, the first prelate of Hung Hoa Diocese.

Rights activists have slammed Myanmar’s military junta for the ongoing persecution of Rohingya Muslims following a deadly boat tragedy. At least 17 Rohingya including children died after a boat carrying some 90 people capsized in the Bay of Bengal on the way to Malayasia.

The boat reportedly left Rakhine state capital Sittwe on May 19 and sank off the coast of Pathein township two days later due to bad weather. More than 50 people were missing while 20 swam to safety. The passengers were from camps for internally displaced people in in Sittwe, Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships in Rakhine.

This photo taken on May 22 by an anonymous source shows officials looking at bodies washed up on a beach after a boat carrying at least 90 people capsized near the coast of Pathein township on May 21. (Photo: AFP)

An official from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the tragedy highlighted the sense of desperation of Rohingya in Myanmar due to ill-treatment of the minority group. Stateless Rohingya have faced abuses and persecution in the Buddhist-majority country for decades.

A brutal military crackdown in 2017 forced more than 740,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh. 

A photo exhibition in South Korean capital Seoul has provided a rare glimpse of the life and works of the nation’s first cardinal, Stephen Kim Sou-hwan, and the history of the Catholic Church in Korea.

The exhibition of 50 black and white photos by photographer Michael Seo Yeon-jun was part of the 100th birth anniversary celebrations of the former archbishop of Seoul. The photos were captured between 1984 and 1888 and highlight the socioeconomic situation of the period.

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan is seen during Christmas Eve Mass in South Korean capital Seoul in 1986. (Photo: Michael Seo Yeon-jun)

Cardinal Stephen Kim Sou-hwan is regarded as an iconic figure in the Korean and global church. He is hailed for his seminal efforts in evangelization and strengthening the Korean church amid various trials and tribulations.

He was lauded for his brave stance for democracy and human rights amid oppressive military rule during the nation’s bloody transition to democracy. Born in 1922, Stephen Kim was ordained a priest in 1951. He served as bishop of Masan from 1966 to 1968 and as archbishop of Seoul from 1968 to 1998. He died in 2009.

Thousands of inmates in Thailand’s notorious and overcrowded prisons are suffering from mental health problems including depression and anxiety amid an acute shortage of mental healthcare services.

An official from the Corrections Department said some 5,000 inmates out of the country’s 300,000 prisoners, who have been jailed for drug-related offenses and other crimes, have mental health issues.

Gross overcrowding at Bangkok's Immigration Detention Center allows at most a space of one meter by 40 centimeters per person to stretch out and sleep. A facility designed to hold no more than 500 detainees often accommodates up to 1,200.

Rights groups said the actual number should be higher as a lack of adequate healthcare facilities is common in Thai prisons. 

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