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Rome & the World: the cardinal wearing red for Syria

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cardinal zenari

Jean-Matthieu GAUTIER/CIRIC

Cardinal Mario Zenari

I.Media for Aleteia - published on 11/25/22

Also in today's headlines: no more exorcists in Chur, Switzerland, and an 'underground' Chinese bishop joins official church

Every day, Aleteia offers a selection of articles written by the international press about the Church and the major issues that concern Catholics around the world. The opinions and views expressed in these articles are not those of the editors.

Friday 25 November 2022
1. The unprecedented journey of Cardinal Zenari, the “military nuncio”! 
2. An “underground” Chinese Bishop joins the official Church
3. Swiss diocese gives up exorcists
4. The silence of Cardinal Omella
5. Ghana’s new cardinal released from hospital
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Cardinal Mario Zenari, who has served the Holy See’s diplomatic service since the 1980s, is arguably the most senior of the current nuncios. In fact, he is the only serving apostolic nuncio to have been created a cardinal since the 16th century and in the modern history of apostolic nunciatures. “This makes me feel a bit uncomfortable,” confesses the Italian who has served popes on four continents and in nearly 20 nations. In 1999, he was appointed nuncio to the Ivory Coast, a few months before the civil war broke out. Four years later, he was sent to Sri Lanka, “another country afflicted by a bloody 30-year conflict,” said the man who has been nuncio to Syria since 2009. “Now I consider myself a military nuncio,” said the soon-to-be 77-year-old diplomat. When the other diplomatic missions fled Syria at the height of the war, he never left Damascus. “Keeping the nunciature open and operational during the bloody conflict was an obvious decision that we never reconsidered,” explains Cardinal Zenari, who as a young man just wanted to be a good parish priest in a rural area. In Syria, he sees his mission as that of a Good Samaritan, facilitating humanitarian aid in this war-torn country. Noting that Syria has disappeared from the media radar, he is now concerned about the poverty that affects nearly 90% of the population, and the emigration, especially of young people. For him, the Cardinal’s robe that the Pope chose to clothe him with in 2016 has a very concrete meaning. “When I wear this color, I often think that I am not wearing it on my behalf, but on behalf of all the victims of war, especially children. For me it is nothing but the martyred Syria!”

Alfa y Omega, Spanish 

2An “underground” Chinese Bishop joins the official Church

An underground Chinese bishop, John Peng Weizhao, appointed by Pope Francis in 2014 for the Diocese of Yujiang and also consequently detained for six months by the Chinese authorities, has joined the “official” bodies of Chinese Catholicism and was recognized in a ceremony on Thursday as the “auxiliary bishop of the Diocese of Jiangxi.” The ceremony took place in Nanchang and around 200 people attended. It was presided over by local Bishop Li Suguang, who is also vice president of the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, a body not recognized by the Holy See. Bishop Peng Weizhao, 56, studied at the national seminary in Beijing and became a priest in 1989. He was secretly ordained bishop of Yujiang with a mandate from Pope Francis on April 10, 2014, to succeed Bishop Thomas Zeng Jingmu, until then head of the local underground church. Bishop Zeng Jingmu spent 23 years in prison and died at the age of 96 in 2016. A few weeks after his ordination, Bishop Peng himself was arrested. Released in November 2014, his ministry has been severely restricted by the authorities. After the 2018 agreement, the underground Church in Yujiang came under intense pressure to “regularize” its clergy by joining the official church. On September 22, Bishop Peng informed his clergy that he had resigned as Bishop of Yujiang and accepted the government’s plan to integrate all dioceses into the single Diocese of Jiangxi. According to the website chinacatholic.cn, controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, the Bishop swore to “faithfully preach the gospel, lead the priests and Catholics of the Diocese of Jiangxi, abide by the national constitution, safeguard the unity of the motherland and social harmony, love the country and religion, adhere to the principle of independence and self-management of the Church, adhere to the direction of Sinicisation of Catholicism in our country, actively guide Catholicism to adapt to socialist society, and contribute to the realization of the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” There is a fear that a situation like the one which happened in Mindong, Fujian, where clandestine Bishop Guo Xijin was pressured to accept the ministry of auxiliary bishop and then renounced his episcopal ministry a few months later when he found that the new conditions left him little freedom of movement, could recur again. 

Asia News, English   

3. Swiss diocese gives up exorcists

The Diocese of Chur, in Switzerland, will no longer offer the services of an exorcist priest. The current Bishop, Joseph Maria Bonnemain, considers that people in psychological distress should find medical or psychotherapeutic solutions. 

Cath.ch, French 

4. The silence of Cardinal Omella

Cardinal Juan José Omella, president of the Spanish Bishops’ Conference, made no mention of abuse cases in his opening address to the plenary assembly of the episcopate. El Pais says “it has lacked compassion, an ethical principle and religious virtue that makes us truly human and leads us to show solidarity with those who suffer.”

El Pais, Spanish

5. Ghana’s new cardinal released from hospital

The Ghanaian Cardinal Richard Baawobr, who missed the consistory of August 27 because of a heart ailment, was released from the Gemelli Hospital in Rome on November 18, after undergoing a major operation. He thanked the faithful of his Diocese of Wa for their prayers, but will remain in Rome for several more weeks, residing at the General House of the White Fathers, the Congregation of which he was Superior General.

ACI Africa, English

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