The tragic accident of Mons Ante Jozic in his native Croatia shocked his many friends in Hong Kong. I had met him on numerous occasions after his arrival there over six years ago as the Vatican Representative and share their sadness. The Vatican is not allowed an official delegate or nuncio on the mainland so since the 1950 a low-level representative (like Mons Ante) was their ‘China Watcher’ in Hong Kong.
The accident occurred shortly after Mons Ante had left Hong Kong on completing his six years stint. He had just been appointed Nuncio to the Ivory Coast and, as part of the process, was to be ordained Archbishop on 1 May.
However on 7 April, when driving his car in a tunnel, another car drove into his. The cars burst into flames and while both drivers were pulled out, the other driver died shortly afterwards and Mons Ante has just recently regained consciousness.
His youthful energy and warm personality sparked a bond with many people in Hong Kong. However he was not so popular among ‘Old Catholics’ on the mainland where he was blamed for the recent ‘Provisional Agreement’ between the Vatican and Beijing.
The Vatican saw it as a way of protecting the present Catholics and establishing the Church more firmly in China but many Catholics who had suffered persecution there saw it as handing over too much control to a Communist Government.
Indeed, after the Agreement was announced, pressure has increase on priests associated with the old or independent Church to join the government organised ‘Catholic Patriotic Association.’
Unfortunately, Mons Ante, who would have had little say in negotiating the agreement, received a lot of the criticism. Hopefully he himself will recover fully and will be able to resume his work in the Vatican diplomatic service but the wounds inflicted on the Chinese Church towards the end of his time as representative in Hong Kong will take longer to heal.