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Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen given private audience with Pope Francis in Vatican

Hong Kong’s Cardinal Zen given private audience with Pope Francis in Vatican

Meeting took place on Friday afternoon at Santa Marta, the Pope’s residence in the Vatican, Christian publication America reports.

Retired Hong Kong Catholic leader Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun was granted a private audience “at short notice” with Pope Francis the day after attending the funeral of Benedict XVI in the Vatican.

Zen, who is under investigation in Hong Kong for possible national security law breaches, was earlier given permission by a court to go to Rome between Wednesday and Sunday to attend the funeral of retired pope Benedict XVI, who died on December 31 aged 95.

The meeting took place on Friday afternoon at Santa Marta, the Pope’s residence in the Vatican, Christian publication America reported, quoting Zen as saying the conversation was wonderful and that the pontiff was “so very warm”.

Cardinal Zen was given special permission to go to Rome.

The article said: “Today’s audience, however, was something special: a personal, private audience granted by the Pope to him at short notice because the cardinal has to take the plane back to Hong Kong tomorrow morning (January 7) to respect the court order.”

It said Pope Francis had given Zen books and a rosary as gifts and granted him permission to visit and pray in front of Benedict’s tomb, located in the crypt of St Peter’s Basilica.

The Pope reportedly showed Zen a replica sculpture of Our Lady of Sheshan that he had received, with the cardinal replying: “I hope you can one day visit the shrine of Sheshan.”

The Sheshan Basilica, erected in 1871 at Sheshan Hill, in Shanghai, is a national shrine to the Virgin Mary. Both the church and the Our Mother of Sheshan sculpture have been venerated by Chinese Catholics for decades.

Zen also reportedly shared with the Pope the pastoral work he had done with prisoners in Hong Kong and that he had baptised several inmates over the past 10 years.
Cardinal Joseph Zen attended the funeral of Benedict XVI in Rome.

He also thanked the Pope for last year appointing Stephen Chow Sau-yan as leader of the Hong Kong diocese, calling him a “good bishop”, the report said.

The Pope was said to be “very happy” to hear Zen had continued his pastoral ministry even though he had to walk with a cane.

Zen was accompanied by Reverend Carlos Cheung to Rome.

The cardinal was one of the trustees of the now-disbanded 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which aimed to provide financial support to protesters arrested during the social unrest in 2019.

He was arrested last May on suspicion of colluding with foreign or external forces to endanger national security, crimes under the national security law punishable by life imprisonment.

He was later released on bail pending investigation but had to surrender all travel documents, including his SAR passport, to police.

Zen visited the Vatican in 2020 in the hope of meeting Pope Francis on the arrangement of Hong Kong bishops, but he was not received.

The Vatican and the Hong Kong diocese have been contacted for comment.


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