Profile on Cardinal Zen


75 and with 45 years of priesthood behind him, Cardinal Zen has witnessed the long and sometimes blood-stained path the Church has had to tread since the revolutionary, Mao Zedong, triumphed in 1949.

As Bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Zen has taken full advantage of the former British colony’s semi-detached relationship with the mainland to speak out in ways largely impossible for his brother bishops. He has been a vocal opponent of the strict controls Beijing exercises over the Church.

Pope Benedict XVI’s recognition of the Bishop of Hong Kong’s staunch defence of Church freedom was made apparent when at his first consistory the Pontiff named Zen a Cardinal.

When he was interviewed shortly after being named a cardinal, he made reference to the colour of his new robes, saying: “The colour red that I wear means the willingness of a cardinal to shed his own blood. But it is not my blood which has been shed; it is the blood and tears of numerous nameless heroes… who suffered for being faithful to the Church.” (Zenit news agency)

13th Jan 1932   Born in Shanghai, China
11th Feb 1961   Ordained priest of Salesians of St John Bosco, aged 29 in Hong Kong. Cardinal Zen was professor of the Catholic Seminary in Hong Kong until 1973.
1978   Appointed provincial superior of the Salesians for ‘external’ China (Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan).
1983 – 1996   Lecturer at a number of seminaries, both ‘official’ and ‘underground’, in various parts of China.
9th Dec 1996   Ordained Coadjutor Bishop of Hong Kong, aged 64
20th Oct 2002   Installed as Bishop of Hong Kong, aged 70
24th Mar 2006   Elevated to Cardinal, aged 74