Coats of the Princes

It is a venerable tradition in the Roman Catholic Church for bishops (and even priests and deacons) to adopt a coat-of-arms. The pattern in the shield is chosen personally by the prelate, while the elements around the shield indicate the prelate's rank and possibly even the office, as determined by rules of ecclesiastical heraldry. Ordained ministers have a right to an ecclesiastical hat or galero, and tassels are hung from the galero on the two sides of the shield. In recent centuries, it is also customary to add a motto below the shield. (Eastern-rite prelates may use a different design such as a mantle below the shield.)

As a summary, the number of tassels on each side of the shield tells the rank of the prelate: 0 for Deacons, 1 for Priests, 2 for Vicars Forane and Vicars Episcopal, 3 for Canons, 6 for Monsignors, Abbots and Bishops, 10 for Archbishops, 12 for Major Archbishops, 15 for Primates, Patriarchs and Cardinals. The colour of the galero usually matches that of tassels: black for Priests and Abbots, violet for Prelates of Honour, green for Bishops, Archbishops and Patriarchs, and red for Cardinals (except for Protonotaries Apostolic who use violet galero and red tassels, and Chaplains of His Holiness who use a black galero and violet tassels). A Bishop uses a golden cross above the shield; an Archbishop uses a golden archiepiscopal cross (two-barred cross); and Abbots uses a crozier. Archbishops who are Metropolitans can use a pallium in the arms.

When the prelates change their office and rank, they adjust their coat-of-arms accordingly. For the 22 prelates to be elevated Cardinals, they may simply change the colour of the galero, cords and tassels to red and the number of tassels becomes 15 on five rows on each side of the shield, while usually leaving the shield unchanged. Below are the existing coat-of-arms of half of the 22 Cardinals-designate.
Note that Versaldi's coat-of-arms was that of his former office as Bishop of Alessandria, and Fr. Grech's coat-of-arms will be used only from his episcopal consecration on February 8 until February 18 when he is created cardinal.

These 11 prelates choose the following mottoes (the mottoes of the others can be seen here):
While prelates may use any language for their motto, it is encouraging to see these 11 choose to use Latin, the official language of the Church.


The Zen of China

Joseph Cardinal Zen, Bishop emeritus of Hong Kong, turned eighty yesterday. During his episcopacy, he brought the prestige of the Catholic Church to a new height in the cosmopolitan city, where only 5% of its citizens belong to the faith but many of the best schools and charitable institutions are run by the Catholic Church thanks to the work by missionaries since the Great Britain began to rule Hong Kong in 1842.

With his experience as provincial superior of the Salesians and later Dean of Philosophy of the diocesan seminary, Father Zen followed Don Bosco's dream of serving in Mainland China. For seven years he served as guest professor in the major seminaries of Shanghai, Wuhan, Xi'an, Shijiazhuang, Beijing and Shenyang. Just before Hong Kong was to be handed over to Chinese rule, he was appointed Coadjutor Bishop of the world's gateway city to China in 1996. Six years later he succeeded John Baptist Cardinal Wu as Ordinary of Hong Kong. Pope Benedict XVI made him the sixth Chinese Cardinal of the Holy Roman Church in 2006, a news that went on the front page of many local newspapers.

Since becoming bishop, Zen has been outspoken against social injustice and against the Chinese regime, when the Communist government exerted increasing influence on affairs in Hong Kong. Whereas the Sino-British Joint Declaration and the Basic Law guarantee "a high degree of autonomy" in this special administrative region in the People's Republic of China, the Communist government interfered in Hong Kong through judicial rulings and penetration of the Hong Kong government by pro-Communist politicians. Publicly participating in peaceful protests or prayer events for the democratization of China every year and bluntly criticizing the Hong Kong government and the Communist Party before reporters time after time, he became known as the "voice of Hong Kong". He brought the Church to record-high popularity when he successfully influenced the defeat of a critical legislative motion. However, later when he strongly advocated for the right of the children of Chinese immigrants to live in Hong Kong (the Basic Law gave them this right and the Final Court of Appeals in Hong Kong ruled in favour, but the Court of China made a surprise overrule), he gradually lost the support of most Hong Kong non-Catholics who are in general antagonistic towards immigrants. Even some priests publicly criticized him for interfering in politics and criticizing China.

However, his biggest concern is always for the Church in China. He always says that his cardinalate was a gift by the Pope to China. It is not a secret that he has been financially supportive of priests and seminarians from either the underground and the open Churches in China. Of particular concern to him has been the quality of bishops consecrated in China, with or without papal mandate. Last year after the illicit consecration of bishops of Jinzhou, Leshan and Shantou, he went to ten cities in the United States and Canada and gave countless interviews, talks and press conferences on the pitiful state of the Catholic Church in China, when he for the first time expressed his criticism of the policy of Propaganda Fide for China under the rule of the just retired Prefect Cardinal Ivan Dias who excessively gave in to China and caused great dismay to bishops loyal to the Holy Father. To his delight, since then, a new Prefect who well understands the Church of China has been appointed and a new Secretary from Hong Kong has been installed in the dicastery, who will no doubt take a hard-line policy for the integrity of apostolic succession in China.

His successor, John Tong, with his soft-spoken nature, does not hold a high profile to the general public of Hong Kong. While some compare him to Cardinal Zen and criticize him of not speaking out enough, Tong is wise and prudent, and the most courteous priest whom I know, embodying the best of the Confucian manner and personally replying to all letters. With his elevation to the College of Cardinals on February 18, Tong will most likely be the second Chinese Cardinal ever to vote in a conclave (after Cardinal Thomas Tien did so in 1968), should the papal see become vacant within the next eight years. While there are rumours that the Diocese of Hong Kong may soon be promoted to Archdiocese (with Macau as suffragan?), this will not affect the rank of Cardinal-designate John Tong other than requiring a tiny change on his coat-of-arms (from the bishop's cross to a metropolitan cross).

Effective today Cardinal Zen lost the right to elect a new pope should His Holiness pass away this day. The 1996 law stipulates that cardinals on their eightieth birthday lose the right to take part in papal election should the Apostolic See become vacant the next day. The extra one day is probably added to account for time-zone difference. As an example, suppose the Cardinal of Toronto celebrates his 80th birthday on November 3, and if the Roman Pontiff dies at 3 a.m. (Italy time) on November 3 (which is 9 p.m., November 2 in Toronto, when the Cardinal was 79 years old), on paper the Cardinal is 80 on that day but he should still have the right of elect the new Pope. (Those who are well versed in canon law, feel free to correct me if necessary.)

Personally I have met and talked with the eminent Prince of the Church in more than ten occasions in Hong Kong, Toronto and Chicago. When he paid a pastoral visit to Chinese parishes in Toronto a few years ago, I was honoured to be his chauffeur for two days! I was struck by his frankness and transparency, and his tireless work for the Church despite his old age. After his retirement from the office of the Bishop of Hong Kong in 2009, he continued to speak out against injustices. Three months ago, with the decision of the Court of Final Appeal rejecting the Church's appeal against the new government's attempt of undermining the Catholic school system, he went on a hunger strike for three days, fasting only on water and Holy Communion. Even though his hearing has worsened in recent years, he will continue to be the voice for the Church in Hong Kong and China.

My last thought before I close on my first long post... To my delight, Hong Kong, with its role as the Bridge Church to China, has unofficially become a "cardinalatial see".

And now a video of the Zen:


Annus Fidei

The note from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith regarding pastoral recommendations for the Year of Faith was released earlier today. Promulgated by Pope Benedict, beginning on 11 October 2012 (50th anniversary of the opening of Vatican II Council) and ending on 24 November 2013 (Solemnity of Christ the King), the Year of Faith seeks to deepen the Christian faith of Catholics. With heavy emphasis of catechesis using the Catechism and its Compendium (the word "Catechism" appears 29 times in the text) on the levels of the Universal Church, the country, the diocese and the parish, the note makes multiple recommendations to make the Year more fruitful. The newly established Pontifical Council for the Promotion of the New Evangelization will establish a Secretariat to coordinate the initiatives within the Roman Curia and for the Universal Church.

One thing that caught my attention is that the CDF mandates the Secretariat to open a dedicated website for the Year of Faith "with the goal of making available useful information regarding living out the Year of Faith more effectively". I am really glad about the different initiatives, effectively beginning in the past year, by the Roman Curia to make a better use of the modern means of communications. Surely the Catholic Church still has a lot to catch up in this area, but this is another indication that we are having a good start.


Red Additions

Pope Benedict XVI announced the creation of 22 cardinals in the consistory to be held on February 18. I am honoured to be the first person (according to Twitter) to post the complete list (with hyperlinks) on the web, 2 minutes before the Vatican Bulletin posted its version... thanks to the technology of live TV streaming.

Personally I am doubly delighted that Hong Kong, my native city, will receive its first native-born cardinal and the much deserved Thomas Collins in my current home town will also receive a red biretta. The inclusion of Timothy Dolan of the "capital of the world" (I personally followed his elevation from national seminary rector to bishop to archbishop to USCCB president and now to cardinal) and Prague's Dominik Duka in Benedikt's List also broke the rule of only one voting cardinal per see, although their predecessor will reach the age of 80 shortly. From quick Google searches, I can see the phenomenal contributions by the 3 scholars over the age of 80 named to the College of Cardinals.

Out of my 15 predictions made earlier in the day, 12 are to be elevated into the cardinalate. ToledoTokyo and Antananarivo will need to wait. I suppose 80% accuracy is not too bad for me! 

Here are some statistics of the College of Cardinals after the consistory on February 18:

Electors (under 80 of age)
Europe67 (19 countries)119 (23 countries)
North America19 (3 countries)26 (3 countries)
Central America4 (4 countries)6 (6 countries)
South America14 (8 countries)22 (8 countries)
Asia9 (6 countries)20 (12 countries)
Oceania1 (1 country)4 (2 countries)
Africa11 (10 countries)17 (16 countries)
Total125 (51 countries)214 (70 countries)

Pray and give thanks to God for the new Princes of the Church.

Princes will be born

The announcement of the consistory that will be held on 18-19 February is happening later today, a bit sooner than I expected. I'm going to join in the fun of predicting who will be the new Princes of the Church. Here are 14 bishops under the age of 80 and another one above 80 (my prediction):
Stay tuned for the real list at www.GCatholic.org in 12 hours!

Vidimus stellam eius in Oriente

Ever since the website GCatholic.org was created more than fourteen years ago, countless hours of research in libraries and on the internet, reading and programming have resulted in 18,500 web pages. The aim has been to provide information about the past, present, and even the future of the Catholic Church based on objective facts.

The idea of creating a blog has been present for years and recently the desire to do so has intensified. While GCatholic.org serves to provide only objective information, there is a lot more about the Church that I would personally love to write about. Through this blog, I will post on issues that interest me, including but not limited to history, liturgy, saints, churches, cardinals, bishops and ecclesiastical trivia. My Chinese background and personal interests on computing, astronomy and mathematics will also serve to provide topics of my future posts here.

"We have seen his star in the east, and have come to adore the Lord." (Mt 2:2) On this Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, I entrust this blog to Christ the Saviour, who manifested the greatness and love of God to the world, and instituted the Most Holy Church so that people from east to west and for ages and ages can come to adore him.