Cardinal Bo expressed his “profound concern about the situation for human rights and threats to religious freedom in Hong Kong,” adding: “Hong Kong used to be one of Asia’s freest and most open cities. Today, it has been transformed into a police state. Freedom of expression, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly and association, and academic freedom have all been dismantled.”

Cardinal Bo has been archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar, since 2003.

“To see a city that was a beacon for freedom, including religious freedom, move so radically and swiftly down a much darker and more repressive path is heart-breaking. To see a government in China break its promises made in an international treaty, the Sino-British Joint Declaration, so repeatedly and blatantly, is appalling.”

“For the people of Hong Kong it is now increasingly difficult to speak out freely, so those of us outside Hong Kong who have a voice must use it on their behalf, and devote our prayers and efforts to showing solidarity with and support for them, in the hope that one day their freedoms will be restored.”

For full text:…/




You have by now seen the news everywhere: Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested yesterday, May 11 – and later released on bail – in Hong Kong. I was lucky to get a very early heads-up and posted the news links as soon as I received it!

For me, if you have followed his life, especially in recent years, Cardinal Zen is a saint-in-waiting. In case you need to be refreshed, some of his background appears in the link to the Register story as well as the Vatican news report.

Is he perhaps a “white martyr”?

Aleteia, in a report on three types of martyrdom, explained that, “white martyrdom is typically defined as being persecuted for the faith, but never shedding any blood. It consists of living a life boldly for Christ, yet never being asked to die for it.”

Cardinal Zen would not be the only “white martyr” in today’s world!

If you are a reader of Joan’s Rome and my Facebook page, you know full well how I feel about the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with the Chinese government on the naming of bishops and the renewal of that agreement in October 2020. Since 2018, I have been mystified – as have countless others! – as to why the Vatican would sign an agreement with a country that has persecuted – and continues to do so – Christians, especially Catholics. Churches have been burned, destroyed or closed, crosses removed from churches and church buildings, statues destroyed, bishops imprisoned, priests asks to sign documents basically saying they agree with the communist government, etc., etc.

You know I’m not making this up.

Two years ago, as Hong Kong was awaiting Pope Francis to name a new bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, 88 at the time, came to Rome, hoping to meet Pope Francis to plead with him to give Hong Kong a true shepherd for the Hong Kong flock.

That papal audience was not granted. No explanation. No reason. Silence.

For full story: Cardinal Zen Appeals to the Pope: Please Send a Faithful Shepherd to Hong Kong| National Catholic Register (

I have had this photo on my laptop since the cardinal’s 2020 visit to Rome, and it always brings tears to my eyes!

Now, I ask you to please set aside 11 minutes for a riveting, extremely informational commentary on Cardinal Zen, the Vatican and China by Andrew Bolt of Sky News Australia. You may recall a few years back that Bolt was one of the most vocal defendants of Cardinal George Pell when he was in prison in Australia. Bolt, along with credible guests, made excellent legal points every time he dedicated a segment to the Pell case. He does the same here with Ed Condon of The Pillar: (9) Cardinal Joseph Zen’s arrest is ‘very serious’ and ‘not surprising’ – YouTube

Following is a Vatican news report on Cardinal Zen’s arrest:


Cardinal Joseph Zen was detained in Hong Kong on Wednesday by the police force set up to oversee national security, and charged with “collusion with foreign forces” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The director of the Vatican Press Office says the Holy See is closely following developments in the situation.

By Salvatore Cernuzio (vaticannews)

Ninety-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was the bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, was arrested on Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities.

The cardinal has reportedly been released on bail, according to reports circulated via social media by local journalists who also posted photos of Cardinal Zen outside the Wan Chai police station.

As he left the police station around 11 PM Hong Kong time, the Cardinal reportedly got immediately into a car, without offering any comments.

Arrest and charges

The Cardinal was detained on Wednesday evening by the police section set up to monitor China’s national security.

According to local sources, he is currently being held at a police station for questioning. The cardinal is charged with “collusion with foreign forces,” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a fund that supported pro-democracy protesters in paying for the legal and medical expenses they faced.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, in response to journalists’ questions on Thursday afternoon.

Three other arrests

Cardinal Zen was one of the trustees of the organisation, established in 2019 and dissolved in October last year.

In addition to the cardinal, authorities also arrested other promoters of the fund, including well-known lawyer Margaret Ng, a former opposition MP; academic Hui Po-keung; and singer-songwriter Denise Ho. Their arrests were confirmed by Hong Kong legal sources.


Local media reported the arrest, saying that the law enforcement investigation focuses on alleged “collusion” by the 612 Fund with “foreign forces,” in violation of the national security law imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

The charge leveled against those arrested is one of four offences under the city’s National Security Act, designed to quash pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The new law has been internationally condemned. The other offences listed in the act – subversion, secession and terrorism – can carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.

Already in recent months, several Hong Kong media outlets have accused Cardinal Zen of inciting students in 2019 to revolt against a series of government measures. In the past, Cardinal Zen has also criticized the Chinese Communist Party for allegedly persecuting religious communities.



Today was mostly a workday (maybe you heard Teresa Tomeo and I chatting on our weekly time together on “Catholic Connection”), but I did spent time before lunch strolling around some of my favorite Sorrento spots. And now, in several slideshows, I’d like to share some photos of what this beautiful town has to offer – her churches, stores, fashions, etc. The two churches I feature are San Francesco that I visited Monday night and San Antonino Abate (abbot) where I was overjoyed to attend Mass and receive communion yesterday.

Churches I love –

A few sights –

Shop till you drop –

And if you want limoncello….


(ANSA) – The Teatro alla Scala Chorus and Orchestra will start its autumn season on September 4 at Milan’s Duomo with a performance of Verdi’s Requiem conducted by Riccardo Chailly. La Scala will then take Verdi’s Requiem to Bergamo and Brescia, the Italian provinces hit hardest by the coronavirus emergency, on September 7 and 9 respectively. The famous opera house will reopen its doors on September 12 with Beethoven’s ninth symphony.

(ANSA) – Florence’s Uffizi gallery is organizing a major show in Forlì next year to mark the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death, director Heike Schmidt said (in early July). “A great show will be dedicated to the Supreme Poet in a strongly symbolic place, because it was in those lands that the author of the Divine Comedy spent several years of his exile,” Schmidt said. For this extraordinary initiative the Uffizi gallery will make available, in addition to art historians, some of the works most closely linked to Dante and his time. There will also be loans from all over the world,” Schmidt said.


STATE OF EMERGENCY UNTIL OCT 5 – The Italian government has announced that the state of emergency in which we are living because of the coronavirus will last until October 5. That does not mean that Italy returns to the draconian measures of total lockdown, businesses closing, etc. In fact, they are looking forward to re-opening schools here in September. What the state of emergency does, according to ANSA, is “it gives special powers to governors and other public bodies, making it possible, for example, to create ‘red zones’ sealing off areas where an coronavirus outbreak has occurred.

“It also makes it possible for the government to stop flights to and from countries with a high incidence of contagion. As a result, people who are from, or who have passed through, 16 ‘at-risk’ States are not allowed into Italy at the moment. (including US) (Today: New covid cases in Italy 181: deaths 11)

NFL RESTRICTIONS ON PLAYER CHURCH ATTENDANCE – I am a huge football fan so, like millions of Americans, I’ll be anxious to see if and how games are played this year, both at the university level and professional football. I know a number of Catholic coaches and players so the following story from The Federalist really interested me:

“NFL – A deal reached by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association bans players from attending any indoor church services that are above 25 percent capacity, multiple sources told NBC Sports on Saturday. Alongside its restrictions on attending worship services, the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) also prohibits players from attending indoor nightclubs and bars (except for take-out), indoor concerts, professional sports games, and indoor parties that include 15 or more people. The deal has not been publicly released, but NBC Sports made no mention of any restrictions on attending protests. Meanwhile, the NFL’s Twitter account has been sharing and celebrating pictures of players engaging in protests around the country.

CHINESE HACKERS ATTACK VATICAN, HONG KONG – (Asianews) – PIME victim of Chinese hackers, along with the Vatican and the Study Mission in Hong Kong. A private US company, Recorded Future, detected the espionage operation against the mail servers of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the Diocese of Hong Kong, and the Holy See’s Study Mission in Hong Kong, which acts as a quasi-nunciature. PIME’s mail server did not work for weeks. The AsiaNews website has been attacked but not disabled. The hacking is the work of RedDelta, an entity linked to the Chinese government. Recorded Future appears to have no links to the Trump administration. Espionage and hackers are an international problem to live with.,-along-with-the-Vatican-and-the-Study-Mission-in-Hong-Kong-50681.html



No news becomes the news story of the day when you have news but cannot publish it. Sunday, as always happens before a papal speech or homily, the Holy See Press Office emailed an embargoed copy of the papal remarks to the media accredited to the press office. Embargo means we cannot publish or even hint at the content until the moment the Pope actually speaks the words in the text.

What happens when our embargoed text contains words the Pope does not say?

That happened last Sunday.

The original Italian-language text arrived at 11:15. Shortly before the Pope spoke at the Angelus the media was informed that a certain part of the text regarding Hong Kong would not be read by the Pope, and the eventual daily bulletin, in fact, did not have that part of the text, nor did the English and Spanish translations.

A non-text or deleted text, especially if somewhat sensitive, provokes many questions. The questions about the Sunday text are still being asked and explored and parsed today.

The embargo was broken and once that happened, other media felt free to go with the story, citing not the original Vatican text but the story as reported by the one who broke the embargo. I could not and did not say a thing until I knew that I would be working within EWTN’s standards, as well as those of the press office. I got clarification last night. Rather than re-tell Sunday’s story, here’s a link to John Allen’s piece in Crux as he tells the story and aftermath very well.

If we had been able to publish the original text Sunday, I’d have written a very long column. Pazienza! Maybe some day…..!


ROME (July 7) – Reporters covering the Vatican find ourselves in a frustrating bind right now, because we’ve got news we can’t fully report — in part because we’re bound by journalistic ethics, and in part because we don’t know ourselves what happened. That vacuum hasn’t stopped the left v. right ideological sausage grinders from swinging into action anyway, running the risk of making it less likely we’ll ever get the full story.

I realize that sounds terribly cryptic, so let me try to break it down.

On Sunday, Pope Francis was set to deliver his usual noontime Angelus address, which often features a brief comment or two on the international situation. As it always does, the Vatican circulated a draft of the address in advance to help reporters prepare, which comes with a strict embargo: We can’t refer to its contents before it’s delivered, and only what the pope actually says is considered official. Anything he skips, therefore, is regarded as having never existed.

Normally popes don’t veer terribly far from the prepared text, sometimes injecting a word or two here or there, skipping a random line for one reason or another, and so on.

However, it’s now a matter of public record that yesterday, Pope Francis omitted a sizeable chunk of text on Hong Kong. I can’t report what the text contained, because I’m bound to honor the conditions under which I received the information. I can report, however, that several Italian news sites have published the text or commented on why it was omitted, and there’s certainly no embargo on their content.

In a nutshell, commentators and news outlets known to be critical of Pope Francis are styling the omission as the latest chapter in what they see as the Vatican’s appeasement of China and its Communist leadership, generally linking it to a deal signed two years ago and shortly up for review that afforded Chinese authorities a role in the nomination of Catholic bishops.



Things are going rapidly downhill in Hong Kong from the point of view of freedoms of any kind, including obviously freedom of religion. The title THE DEATH OF HONG KONG? in the post below is mine but the text and second title are from Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong. The current bishop is Cardinal John Tong as Hong Kong awaits the naming of his successor.

Please pray for their Eminences and for the Catholic faithful in China.

When Cardinal Zen refers to “the midnight celebrations of 1st July twenty-three years ago,” he is referring to the transfer of sovereignty over Hong Kong, commonly known as the handover of Hong Kong that occurred at midnight at the start of July 1st, 1997.

In a nutshell: Hong Kong was a former British colony. An agreement made in 1898 between the British and Chinese gave Britain 99 more years of rule over this colony leading to what in 1997, in the handover, would be known as “One country, Two Systems” wherein China pledged to preserve Hong Kong’s capitalist system.


From Cardinal Joseph Zen, bishop emeritus of Hong Kong:

The Third of July, Today and One Year Ago
發佈日期: 2020 年 07 月 06 日,作者: oldyosef

What are people entertaining in their memory at this moment? Some may be going back to but others may remember demonstrations of a completely different kind (similar radically opposed reactions are taking place now at the passing of the National Security Law).

Some may remember with nostalgia the rally that took place on 1st July last year: Was it perhaps the last one in the history of Hong Kong? Was that peaceful, rational, non-violent resistance a failure? Some are asking themselves: what have we achieved with the Anti-Article 23 resistance, with the “Occupy Central” movement, and with the cooperation between “Peaceful Resistance” and “Aggressive Resistance” fighting the extradition law and police brutality?

Some say the National Security Law is here, what can we do?

What I myself have been remembering all this time, is what happened to me last year on 3rd July in Rome.

On 28th June last year a document (Bulletin No. 554) was issued by the Holy See: “Pastoral guidance for the civil registration of clergy in China” (Italian, English and Chinese) (JFL: here’s the English:

It’s absolutely not normal that a document be issued by the Holy See without the specification of the particular Department and without the signature of the responsible authority. I questioned the then Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization, Cardinal Filoni: “Did you refuse to sign the document?” He answered: “Nobody asked me to sign.” I questioned the Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “Had you ever seen the document before it was issued?” The answer was: “Now everything about China is exclusively in the hands of the Secretary of State.”

Since the document appeared to me to be very wrong, I took a flight to Rome the next day. In the morning of 30th June, I delivered a letter to Santa Marta, asking the Holy Father to be present, in one of the following days, at a dialogue between me and Cardinal Parolin, the obvious author of the document.

On the 1st of July, receiving no answer, I sent another letter with my “dubia” about the document, which I judged to be absolutely against the doctrine of the Church, because it encourages people to be part of a schismatic Church.

On 2nd July I was given the answer from the Pope: “You just talk to Parolin”. I said to the carrier of the answer: “It would be completely useless; so, please, tell the Holy Father I’m going back empty-handed”.

On 3rd July, the Holy Father invited me to supper with the presence of Parolin. I thought I was having a chance.

The supper was very simple during which I talked about the situation of Hong Kong. Parolin didn’t say a word. At the end I said, “May we talk about the document?” The answer from the Holy Father was: “I will look into the matter”. Then he showed me off to the door. That answer was the only reward of my long journey? Not exactly.

During the supper I noticed in the Holy Father much affection for me, but also some embarrassment. I understood the supper was a plan of Parolin, who wanted to tell me: “The Holy Father has much affection for you, but he listens to me, not to you; and I refuse to talk with you about the ‘Pastoral Guidelines’ in His presence. That is the end of it.  Go home and don’t come any more.” So, I did not come back empty-handed. I had a chance to see with my eyes that Parolin is manipulating the Holy Father.

Receiving no word from the Holy Father, when I sent my book “FOR LOVE OF MY PEOPLE, I WILL NOT KEEP SILENT” to all the Cardinals at the end of September, I enclosed a letter asking them to take that matter at heart.  I received a few answers showing compassion and promising prayers. Regrettably, the new Dean of the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Re wrote a letter to all Cardinals criticizing my letter. Obviously, Parolin forced that on him. I answered him immediately (read my blog of 1st March) with a supplement later (10th March).

It’s now a whole year since my visit to Pope Francis, but still no word from him. I am not sure whether my letters can reach him, so I put now on my blog what I want to say, hoping that he may get the chance to read it through somebody.

During the last two years, the Holy See did three things that damaged our Church in China:

1) A secret agreement with Chinese government on the appointment of bishops

The peculiarity of this agreement is its secrecy. It’s not even given to me to see it. Strictly speaking we couldn’t say anything either pro or against it.  But one thing we know is that it is about the appointment of bishops.  Pope Francis said that he had the last word in the matter, but I cannot be sure of that unless I can see the Chinese version of the document. In fact, I doubt whether there could be found such a clear statement that the Pope as the leader of the Catholic Church has the supreme power of these appointments.

Now, even before the signing of the agreement, there was a non-written compromise by choosing a candidate acceptable to both sides, that’s why many bishops had a double approval.  The papal bulla could not be read during the ordination ceremony, but before the ceremony, in the sacristy; it used to be read to the bishops and the priests present.


(ALSO this from AsiaNews: Hong Kong, security law: bookstores pull ‘pro-democracy’ texts:,-security-law:-bookstores-pull-‘pro-democracy’-texts-50510.html)



The Catholic Church in Hong Kong takes a series of strong measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus.
By Linda Bordoni and Marie Duhamel (vaticannews)

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has issued a general dispensation from Mass obligation to help the faithful avoid public gatherings and stem coronavirus infections.

The Diocese announced the suspension of public Masses on Sundays and weekdays from 15 to 28 February, and cancelled the Ash Wednesday liturgy that marks the beginning of the Lenten season.

Cardinal John Tong, the Apostolic Administrator of Hong Kong, described the measures as disappointing, but said the decision had been taken “because the next two weeks will be a crucial time to suppress the epidemic.”

So while granting a dispensation to the faithful from the obligation to attend Sunday Mass, the Hong Kong diocese is providing a live-streamed Mass so that people can still participate and receive Holy Communion “spiritually,” rather than physically.

Hong Kong has reported 50 confirmed cases and one death. Hundreds of people are now under self-isolation or observation.

French missionary Father Nicolas de Francqueville, who is currently running a Hong Kong parish, told Vatican Radio it’s a time of trial, but he hopes the crisis will help people slow down and rediscover certain values.

Father Nicolas said his parish was getting organized after having received the information that “because of the virus we have to be very careful to the extent we have to suspend all the Masses, for two weeks, until 28 February.”

“It is a strong measure,” he said, “and everyone is quite surprised”, but thanks also to social media everyone is already aware of the measure and of the need to react quickly in order to follow the Diocese’s instructions.

“We will cancel all Masses, but on Sunday we will provide Eucharistic Adoration from 10am to 2pm,” he said, noting that the churches are open so anyone who desires can enter the church and pray on their own.

So while everyone is welcome in the Church, nothing will be organized, including, meetings, catechesis lessons and all other activities that normally take place, “because the main focus is to avoid people gathering in big groups because of the risk of contamination.”

Fear and opportunity
Father Nicolas said many people are worried, even desperate, “but at the same time we know it is a trial.”

He explained that in Chinese, the word “crisis” is expressed with two characters: the first indicates something dangerous, while the second means opportunity.

“So I hope that in this dangerous time of the virus it can also be an opportunity for Christians, and for everyone, to maybe show more solidarity, to slow down their lives which are usually so busy, so that maybe people can be more with their families, have more time to pray, to reflect on the sense of their lives, perhaps spend more time doing other things,” he said.

The French priest concluded expressing his hope that “in this crisis we do not only think about danger and fear, but that we may also trust in the Lord: may it become an opportunity to trust in the Lord and continue to love, as Christ asks us to do.”


POPE FRANCIS TWEETED TODAY: All are called to love and cherish family life, for families are not a problem; they are first and foremost an opportunity.

Today, April 25, is Toot Your Own Horn Day! (If it isn’t, it should be!) – so that’s what I’ll do!

I leave Thursday for the U.S. for what promises to be an amazing two weeks! I’ll be very briefly in Fox Point, Wisconsin for the First Communion of my great-nephew Emory, after which I fly to New York on May 2 where I will spend a week doing book promotions and signings, a bit of television and some radio (for starters). I’ll fly to Washington, D.C. on May 9, doing pretty much of the same, but including some very special events!

I have a feeling this is not the first time you’ve heard of my book – but just in case…!  Here are some reviews of my book, “A Holy Year in Rome, The Complete Pilgrim’s Guide to the Jubilee of Mercy” (I may have posted the Vatican Radio story previously). The second review was written by Monica Knudsen, one of my former French students with whom I had a reunion in Rome (and about which I wrote in early March)!

As I travel, I’ll keep you posted daily on events, offer some photos, etc – will do what I can to keep you informed about any breaking news in Rome. In particular, for those of you who live in or near NCY and DC, I’ll let you know where we can meet – and I’ll sign your book!

And now some news from Pope Francis in Rome and from the Church in China.


(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis has sent a letter to prisoners detained in a prison in the Italian city of Velletri, a short distance from Rome.

Prisoners at the facility had written to the Holy Father earlier this year, entrusting their letter to Bishop Marcello Semeraro, the Bishop of Albano, during a pastoral visit to the facility. In his response, Pope Francis thanked the detainees for thinking of him, and assured them that they, and others in similar situations, were often in his thoughts as well. He noted that during his Apostolic Voyages, he always tries to make a visit to local prisons. (photo from a previous prison visit)


The Pope noted that during the Holy Year of Mercy, there will also be a jubilee for prisoners, and he assured them that on that day he would be “in communion” with all prisoners “spiritually and in reciprocal prayer.”

Pope Francis also expressed his sympathy, noting that prisoners “are living an experience in which time seems both to be stopped, and to never end.” But, he said, “the true measure of time is not that of the clock”; rather, “the true measure of time is called hope.” He expressed his desire that all those incarcerated might “always keep lit the light of the hope of faith to illuminate” their lives.

“Always be certain that God loves you personally,” the Pope wrote to the prisoners. He encouraged them to never allow themselves to be closed in by their past, but rather to transform the past “into a journey of growth, of faith and charity.” He called on them to “give God the possibility” of making them “to shine” through their experience, recalling that many saints throughout history “have achieved sanctity” in harsh and difficult situations. “With Christ,” he said, “all this is possible.”


Hong Kong (AsiaNews) – A group of dozens of Christians led by Cardinal Joseph Zen has asked the Chinese government to stop demolishing crosses on mainland China and to release religious leaders from jail. The retired bishop of Hong Kong pointed out that freedom is declining even in the former British colony: “We need to speak out, to take action to prevent this from spreading”.


The protests were held yesterday in front of the Hong Kong Liaison Office with China. The Hong Kong Christian Institute, Christians for Hong Kong Society, Christian Social Concern Fellowship and Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Hong Kong were the four groups that protested yesterday. Participants chanted, “respect for religious freedom” as they left flowers in memory of those who have died to affirm this right in China.

The group reminded those gathered that more than 2,000 crosses were removed or demolished in the province of Zhejiang alone since the end of 2013, when the campaign against Christian religious symbols was started by the local Party. In addition, the protesters asked the central government in Beijing to release pastors and priests imprisoned for opposing these demolitions.

Cardinal Zen he was worried the anti- Christian campaign could spread to Hong Kong. “The freedom is less and less. So we have to speak out because we, in Hong Kong, can see the possibility of the anti- Christian campaign spreading from the mainland,” he said.


The Hong Kong protests come one day after the meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and representatives of the United Front (which gathers together all “non-communist” social groups in modern-day China).

During his address, Xi stressed that religious groups must obey the Party: ” Religious groups must adhere to the leadership of the Communist Party of China”. But party members must be “unyielding Marxist atheists,” Xi said, calling on them to “resolutely guard against overseas infiltrations via religious means.”