Card. Zen ends hunger strike protest over govt. decision about schools

From La Stampa:

At the end of his fast, Zen let it be known that he intended to study more closely the Government’s new regulations regarding the management of the region’s sponsored schools
gerard o’connell

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun ended his hunger strike in Hong Kong at 10.00 a.m. Saturday morning, 22 October, by joining in prayer with the many people who had come from early morning to show their solidarity with him and pray.

The 79-year old Chinese-born cardinal looked tired and fragile but was in good spirits after fasting for 72 hours outside the entrance to the Salesian House of Studies in Hong Kong, where he lives in this autonomous province of China. Salesian brothers assisted him to stand up and walk.

After praying and ending his fast, he spoke briefly in a very soft voice to the many people and journalists present.


He began abstaining from all food, except water and Communion, on October 19, in protest against the definitive ruling by the Court of Final Appeal, October 3, that the 200 Catholic primary and secondary schools in Hong Kong cannot be granted an exemption from the policy of school management decided by the Beijing-backed Government of this Special Autonomous Region which returned under China’s rule on 1 July 1997.


Read the rest there.

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  1. Supertradmum says:

    I wish more priests and bishops would fast. And, it is amazing how little food one can eat if one is receiving Communion daily. I have suggested a fast for a diocesan problem with the shortage of seminarians and priests. I do not know if the bishop will respond, but why can’t we have diocesan fasts for vocations, for the problems with persecution of our Church, for Bishop Finn, etc.? I think the Western Church can learn something from this brave Cardinal.

  2. YoungCatholic says:

    His Eminence is a true shepherd!

  3. ContraMundum says:

    So, what was it — a hunger strike, or a fast? A hunger strike is done to attract public attention by threatening to harm oneself; it is, quite frankly, not the sort of thing a Christian should do, let alone a bishop. It would not be as serious a sin as the suicide of Bishop John Joseph of Faisalabad, but it would share some obvious similarities with suicide.

    A fast, on the other hand, is directed toward God, Who does not need to read about it in the newspapers; see Matthew 6:17,18.

    By no means am I saying that Cardinal Zen should not be publicly preaching about the schools. I am saying that preaching is different from prayer and fasting, let alone a hunger strike.

  4. Supertradmum says:

    If the person is a public person, such as Cardinal Zen, a fast is a hunger strike. I think the difference is that one is using fasting for prayer and penance, but also for attention-why not? The other can be merely manipulation, as done by some prisoners in the States for more recreation or purple sheets or like the Guantanamo prisoners, for special food. I think the publicity is good. May I remind you of a famous quotation: “When Gandhi fasts, the British Empire trembles.”

  5. ContraMundum says:


    Then may I remind you of a famous quotation: “He has his reward already.”

  6. Supertradmum says:

    Disagree. Martyrs are public figures as well and we venerate them. There is nothing wrong with a major churchman, such as a Cardinal, giving us a good example of how to deal with evil in the world-fasting and praying.

  7. ContraMundum says:

    True, but the Church does not recognize as martyrs those who presumed to denounce themselves to the authorities in hopes of attaining a martyr’s crown. See Giuseppe Ricciotti’s The Age of Martyrs. Perhaps even more to the point, martyrs did not torture themselves to death; they submitted to the tortures of others. St. Maximilian Kolbe was not on a “hunger strike”; he was starved by his Nazi guards. I haven’t heard of any progress in the cause for canonization of Bishop John Joseph.

    It drives me up the wall to have people treat prayer as a mere rhetorical device. For instance, if you hear someone read out in Mass, “That we may be welcoming to all immigrants, without regard to their documentation status, let us pray to the Lord,” do you really think the person saying this intends it to be heard by the Creator and Judge of the universe, or is she more likely intending the message for the congregation? Is this the sort of prayer offered up by someone who believes there really is a God, or by someone who thinks that God is just to make the “children” behave, like Santa Clause when they were younger?

  8. Imrahil says:

    Dear @ContraMundum,

    “He has his reward already” says precisely what it says. And it is no forbidding decree. It just says that he who does things for an earthly reward is not to be surprised if he won’t get a heavenly reward (for this piece of work) in addition. It does not say that he sins.

  9. ContraMundum says:


    First of all, let me point out that I do not know that Cardinal Zen thinks of this as a hunger strike as opposed to a fast. I am only insisting that there is a difference between the two, just as there is a difference between suicide and martyrdom. Above all, a hunger strike is an act of pride (“you surely agree that me having a full belly is important enough for you to change your position”) that only appeals to what Fr. Longenecker called “the sentimental heresy”. At any rate, it doesn’t work on me, so I see little reason to suppose it will work on the Chinese government.

    Does “he has his reward already” imply sin? Well, first of off, it is said of people who have just done the opposite of the behavior Jesus was commanding. Secondly, it’s essentially the same thing that was said to Dives in torment. Finally, even if it is not a sin, what is the point of doing something unpleasant if you know there will be no reward for it?

  10. Andrew says:

    I don’t mean to lessen the importance of this subject, and I applaud Cardinal Zen’s fortitude in the face of evil legislation planned by the Chinese government towards Hong Kong Catholic schools, but can I tell you an amusing story about His Eminence, and me.

    In 2005, I interviewed him one evening in Rome at the Internationale Casa del Clero, on Via Transportina. He is a rather small man, and throughout his life been a very dedicated Salesian of Don Bosco.

    When I got back to where I was staying, I thought my keys were missing. And I had just been to a restaurant near the Casa. The cardinal was staying opposite the eatery, so I rang the Casa, and asked to speak to Cardinal Zen. He told me he was undressing to go into bed. But I told him, my problem. He said to me, “I will go to that place and ask if your keys are there”

    In the meantime I discovered I had not lost the keys, but just mislaid them. So I rang the Casa again to speak to the cardinal and he said, “Yes I went to the restaurant, but they said nobody had left any keys.” I then told him bashfully, I had found them. He then said, “Well that is good that they weren’t lost”, and then we said good night. I felt bad about causing him all this unnecessary trouble.

    I have told this story to a few people about me and Cardinal Zen, and one of my friends in a typical Australian fashion said to me, “He should have told you, “GO FLY A KITE!”.

    You certainly can agree with him, if you want to.

  11. Cricket says:

    I’m wondering, what are the long-term implications of the Chinese government’s manipulation of Catholic schools for Hong Kong Catholics? Is this the start of increasing government “controls” on expression of religious freedom? There are few Catholics in Hong Kong, but they tend to be fervent.

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