Rorate Caeli

Cardinal Zen on the Traditional Mass:
School of adoration, strength for martyrs.

Just before retiring in 2009 Joseph Cardinal Zen celebrated his last Mass in public as Bishop of Hong Kong in the Traditional Roman Rite. He told the many journalists who attended the ceremony that he wanted to devote part of his retirement life to the faithful who are attached to the traditional liturgy of the Church. (See our report on that event.) Since then he has kept his promise; Rorate has reported on many of his Masses (see our collection of posts about him) and we understand that there have been many, many more that have gone unreported on liturgical or Traditional Catholic blogs and websites.

His most recent Traditional Mass took place in the Philippines, in the city of Cebu on January 26, 2015 (see picture above) at the sidelines of the 51st International Eucharistic Congress taking place there. His praise for the Traditional Mass during his sermon has been reported by at least two Philippine Catholic news services: CBCP News (the official news agency of the Philippine hierarchy) and the Varsitarian (which belongs to the country's sole Pontifical University). Our thanks to readers who have alerted us to these articles (see below).

Apparently the speeches at the Congress have been dominated by calls for further "inculturation" of the Mass, praise for the liturgical reform of the 1960's, and an overwhelmingly horizantalist view of the Eucharist that largely sees it as an instrument for poverty alleviation, social justice, more and more interreligious "dialogue" and causes that might be good in themselves but are not part of the primary mission of the Church, which is the salvation of souls. Whether by accident or design, Cardinal Zen comes across as a voice pushing back against the dominance of protestantizing views of liturgy at that Congress.

Cardinal Zen's words on the TLM are highlighted below.

1. From CBCP News, the official news agency of the Philippine hierarchy:

 Cardinal Zen: Traditional Latin Mass ‘nourishes faith, inspires adoration’

Delegates to the 51st International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) flocked to the beautiful chapel of Asilo de la Milagrosa on Jan. 26 to assist at the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) offered by Hong Kong Bishop Emeritus Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun, who called for the preservation of the old rite. 

Because it inspires a “sense of adoration” and keeps the Eucharist’s “sense of mystery,” the TLM is a tradition worth keeping, said Cardinal Zen, who offered the Votive Mass of the Blessed Sacrament in what has been called the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite since the liberalization of the old rite in 2007. 
Latin is no longer the lingua franca, acknowledged Zen. “But the whole ceremony inspires majesty, solemnity.”

“In this way of saying the Mass, you don’t even hear the priest pronouncing the words. But you know what this means, because so many times, we hear, we pray … So we understand what is going on,” he added.


An outspoken critic of the Beijing’s tight grip on Chinese Catholics, Cardinal Zen, recalled how the “Tridentine” Mass had nourished the faith of his compatriots amid upheaval in China. Zen, 85, was among those who fled Communist rule in the mainland for Hong Kong, where he joined the Salesians.

“The Mass offered in this fashion nourished our faith, nourished our vocation. And so many people in my native town Shanghai were fortified … by receiving the faith from this Mass, and during the time of persecution, they were so strong,” he said.

Cardinal Zen nonetheless praised the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council which allowed the celebration of the Mass in the vernacular languages, now called the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. He also thanked the Pope for allowing the continued use of the Extraordinary Form.

“It’s good that the Church promoted the liturgical reform, especially because the people don’t understand Latin. So it’s good to use their own language. But then it’s still good to carry on this tradition (TLM). So we are very thankful to the Pope who granted this,” he said. (...)

2. From the Varsitarian:

HK cardinal calls for preservation of Traditional Mass

January 27, 2016, 10:41a.m. - CEBU CITY - A TRADITIONAL Latin Mass offered by retired Hong Kong Bishop Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-Kiun took place at the Asilo de la Milagrosa Church as part of the 51st  International Eucharistic Congress (IEC) activities.
Cardinal Zen explained the difference between the current liturgy and the old rite in his homily, before a large number of mass-goers including young people, priests and nuns.

“This [Tridentine rite] has the sense of adoration. Sometimes, you do not hear the priest pray [in the Mass] but we all know what is going on,” Cardinal Zen said.

Stressing the importance of receiving the Holy Eucharist, Zen described it as a "sacrament of faith and a gift by which we know God."

Zen, 84, urged the faithful to attend Mass and receive Christ regularly, not only during large religious events like the 51st IEC but also on ordinary days.

“How should we forget Him, [and] how could we forget Him? The International Eucharistic Congress is [a] wonderful occasion. So we can remember how fortunate we are with the Eucharist,” the cardinal said. (...)

H/t to Mr. Maurice Almadrones for the beautiful photo.