Friday Sept 29th
Press conference at Ecclestone Square, headquarters of the Catholic Bishops' Conference, with Cardinal Zen of Hong Kong. He is in Britain to speak at a conference organised by Aid to the Church in Need, the international organisation which gives practical help to Catholics persecuted for their faith. Their new book "Persecuted and Forgotten?" launched at this press conference, is very good, and chillingly documents the imprisonment of priests and bishops in China, torching of churches in Pakistan, harrasment of Christians in Nigeria, and incidents in India, Laos, and Iran.....Cardinal Zen was succinct, informative, thoughtful. Born in Shanghai, he was studying abroad when the Comunist took hold of China in 1948 and has spent much of his life in Hong Kong, but taught at seminaries in different parts of China for seven years in the late 1990s. He explained the complex situation in China: the "underground" Church which is loyal to Rome, and the "official" Church which is Govt-controlled., and the fact that, at the level of ordinary Catholics, there is a mix. Priests from the "underground church" are routinely imprisoned "in and out, in and out of prison - we are used to it", but there is also much contact between Catholics who go to "official" Masses and those who go to "underground" ones...."Essentially, ALL Catholics simply want to be loyal to Rome. They know that this is what being Catholic means. But they go to Mass when and where they can. It is the Patriotic Association [the bogus structure imposed by the Govt] which we reject."
He said that no one believes in Marxism any more: "The Party is simply about power, about keeping power, about controlling everything. No one really believes in Comunism but that is not really the issue: the Party simply wants control."
The Cardinal speaks tomorrow at a conference at Westminster Cathedral Hall: it is already over-booked and looks set to be a remarkable event.
Ecclestone Square is smart and pleasant, friendly lady at reception desk, light airy rooms. No pic of Pope at entrance or in main meeting-room as far as I could see - seems a pity?
In the evening, went to see the new film "The Queen" about events at Balmoral surrounding the death of Princes Diana. It shows the Queen in a sympathetic light, and altho' it presents Tony Blair as something of the hero of the hour, the message is also in the end a fairly positive one about monarchy and continuity. But I wondered where people like me fit in: I was not there among the weepers and mass-grief-and-floral-tributes crowd and thought it all absurd and frightening. But I am certainly not Royal and wasn't at Balmoral, nor am I a politician involved with making events happen. Where do ordinary patriots of a once-mainstream kind, with a love of British history and a sense of the continuity of things, fit in to a country which sees Royalty as soap-opera and which talks in psycho-babble or slogans?