From The Times Online we read:
Vatican tones down Good Friday service to avoid upsetting China
Richard Owen of The Times in Rome
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, the Archbishop of Hong Kong and a noted critic of Beijing, has "toned down" his meditations for tomorrow’s Good Friday torch lit ceremony at the Colosseum in order not to upset the "sensitive" dialogue between the Holy See and China, it was reported in Rome today.
Cardinal Zen was appointed by Pope Benedict XVI to formulate the the meditations for the Via Crucis (Way of the Cross) procession on Good Friday as a sign of the priority the Vatican gives to the dialogue with China. The stations of the cross are illustrated in this year’s Via Crucis order of service in an "oriental" style.
Cardinal Zen told Vatican Radio he aimed to reflect the plight of China’s Catholics and "the sufferings the Church still endures in China today". He would draw attention to "the martyrdom to which my people has been subjected for being Christian. Many suffer for the faith. And now there is a harmony between the Passion of the Lord and the passion of my people."
However the published text of the Via Crucis meditations contains no such references. Instead there are general references to "the martyrs of the twenty first century", the "dark times of persecution" faced by many Christians in the world, and the need for "religious freedom".
The Italian newspaper La Repubblica suggested this was either "prudence" or "self censorship". Cardinal Zen told Corriere della Sera that his references to "persecution" were not meant as an "accusation" or "protest".
The Vatican said Pope Benedict would watch most of the Good Friday procession service from a vantage point above the Colosseum and would only take part himself in the last three stations. Father Federico Lombardi, the Pope’s spokesman, said this did not reflect concerns about the health of the Pope, who will turn 81 during his demanding trip to the United States next month.
"It is reasonable that he would want to conserve his energy," Father Lombardi said. The Way of the Cross will be led by Cardinal Camillo Ruini, the Vicar of Rome. Pope Benedict, elected nearly three years ago, had previously taken part in the entire procession, carrying the cross at the first and last stations.
He was criticised this week for his "silence" over Tibet, also seen as the result of the Vatican’s desire not to upset talks with Beijing. But at the general audience on Wednesday the Pope expressed "sadness and pain in the face of so much suffering" in Tibet – his first reference to the clashes. He said he had been "following with great trepidation the news coming these days from Tibet", adding "Problems cannot be solved through violence, but only made worse".
The Vatican and China have been at odds since the 1950s when the Communist authorities closed down the Catholic Church and set up its own "Patriotic Catholic Association" with the right to appoint bishops.
China’s Catholic minority, estimated to number up to 12 million, is split between those who belong to the Patriotic Association and those who follow the "underground" church loyal to the Pope.
Pope Benedict has made improving ties with Beijing a major goal of his pontificate, and last year sent a letter to China’s Catholics in which he called for dialogue with the Chinese authorities. Beijing has since appointed at least two Vatican-approved bishops to the official church.
Last week a Vatican commission on China said the Holy See sought "respectful and constructive" dialogue with Beijing and unity for the country’s divided Church. The commission urged "forgiveness and reconciliation within the Catholic community" in China.
Cardinal Zen said that "during the writing of the meditations, I placed myself, at first, on the side of Jesus and my persecuted brothers, and I experienced sentiments that were not very Christian toward their persecutors. But at one point I realized that, because of my infidelities, I deserve rather to be part of the group of deserters, betrayers, of the persecutors. I hope that all of us experience this conversion."
He said he had to step back and purify himself of the "less than charitable feelings" he had toward those who made Jesus suffer and who "are making our brothers and sisters suffer in today’s world."
In his meditation for the First Station — "Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane" — Cardinal Zen draws on Pope Benedict’s June letter to Chinese Catholics to remind people that in many parts of the world, the church "is going through the dark times of persecution."
In his meditation for the Fourth Station — "Jesus is denied by Peter" — Cardinal Zen says Christ’s decision to entrust "weak and vulnerable men" to continue his mission of salvation is a sign of his wisdom and strength.
His Fifth Station meditation – "Jesus is judged by Pilate" – asks God to give leaders "the courage to respect religious freedom." Pontius Pilate was a symbol of all those who wield authority "as an instrument of power" and not as a vehicle for carrying out "true justice".
In his Eighth Station meditation – "Jesus is helped by Simon the Cyrenian to carry the cross" — Cardinal Zen praises "nonbelievers" who "generously alleviate" the suffering of Christians.
The 14 stations are drawn directly from the Gospel of Mark and do not include apocryphal events not in the Bible such as St Veronica wiping Jesus’ face.