Hong Kong Bishop Visits Shanghai After 6-Year Ban

HONG KONG, MAY 4, 2004 (ZENIT.org- AsiaNews).- China welcomed the head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong to his hometown of Shanghai last week, lifting a six-year ban on one of Beijing’s most outspoken critics.

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Bishop Joseph Zen, who was barred from the mainland in 1998, met with government officials and Shanghai’s Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian during a three-day trip that ended Friday, the South China Morning Post reported. Shanghai officials had invited Bishop Zen to visit.

The report did not say what was discussed during the meetings. Bishop Zen confirmed the Post report today, but declined further comment.

The Catholic leader also visited a seminary where he once taught and visited his brother-in-law’s grave with his 80-year-old sister, the report said.

Beijing does not recognize the Vatican, and Christians on the mainland are only allowed to worship at state-sanctioned churches. Bishop Zen is a vocal critic of China’s suppression of underground churches loyal to the Vatican, which scholars have estimated serve about half of at least 12 million faithful in the country.

Although the Hong Kong Diocese is loyal to the Pope, China allows the territory’s 300,000 Catholics to practice their faith freely in a special arrangement that preserves freedoms introduced when Hong Kong was under British rule.

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