As a class of 18 new cardinal electors awaits their creation, the current group falls to 107 as Chinese Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun turns 80 and loses his right to vote in a conclave. The former archbishop of Hong Kong was for years China’s only cardinal, and the number doesn’t seem to increase anytime soon, considering the difficult relations between the Communist superpower and the Holy See. Cardinal Zen’s successor in the former British colony, Bishop John Tong Hon, is already lined up to become China’s next sole cardinal and elector.
Cardinal Zen, a priest since 1961, was ordained as coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong, finally succeeding Cardinal Wu Cheng-Chung in 2002. He was created a cardinal in the first consistory called by Pope Benedict XVI, in 2006.
His episcopal motto, “Ipsi cura est”, comes from 1 Peter 5:7, and means “he cares (about you)”, something that Cardinal Zen took to heart, often being publicly critical of the governments of both China and Hong Kong. His latest action was a three-day hunger strike last October, to protest how the government handled the school system.
Cardinal Zen of course retains his cardinal title church of Santa Maria Madre del Redentore a Tor Bella Monaca on Rome’s eastern outskirts.