Beliefnet
Hong Kong, Oct 21-(AP) Outspoken bishop Joseph Zen was inaugurated Sunday as the head of Hong Kong's Roman Catholic Church.

In a ceremony attended by 1,000 people at the Catholic Cathedral, the Rev. Lawrence Lee, Chancellor of the diocese, invited Zen to take his seat "as sign of his ministry to the Catholic people of Hong Kong." The 70-year-old bishop then received a standing ovation from those in the Cathedral, which was packed with well-wishers, before celebrating Mass.

Zen became the leader of the Hong Kong diocese after the death of Cardinal John Baptist Wu from bone marrow cancer last month. As a vocal critic of both the Beijing and Hong Kong governments, Zen's succession has raised concerns that the simmering conflicts between the church and Hong Kong authorities might intensify.

Zen last month lashed out at an anti-subversion law proposed by Hong Kong's rulers. The proposed legislation includes a ban on groups linked to organizations on the mainland that are considered threats to China's security. Zen fears it could be used against the local diocese, which supports underground Catholic groups outlawed in mainland China.

China does not recognize the Vatican and allows Chinese Catholics only to worship at state-sanctioned churches. But scholars estimate that half the mainland's 12 million Catholics attend unofficial underground churches that are loyal to the Pope.

Shanghai-born Zen--whose requests for an official visit to the mainland have been rejected since 1998--had urged Beijing leaders to be more open-minded, and to allow mainland Catholic churches to enjoy more freedom.

Hong Kong is constitutionally required to pass legislation prohibiting serious crimes against the state. Although the government insisted that the law would be rarely used, critics feared it might be used to clamp d_wn on western-style freedoms guaranteed to Hong Kong when the territory returned to China in 1997.

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