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”.
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.