By KANIS LEUNG
HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong’s outspoken Roman Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen was allowed to leave the southern Chinese city to pay his respects to the late Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI in Vatican City, his secretary said earlier this month.
Zen, a 90-year-old retired bishop, attended the funeral Mass, led by Pope Francis, at St. Peter’s Square on Jan. 5 and return to Hong Kong two days later.
Zen was elevated to cardinal by Benedict in 2006, which he said signaled the pope’s focus on China.
In recent years, the democracy advocate has been sharply at odds with Francis over the Vatican’s agreement with Chinese authorities on the appointment of bishops. Zen contends the deal betrays pro-Vatican Catholics in China and the clergy who have suffered persecution there.
He and five others were fined in November after being found guilty of failing to register a now-defunct fund that aimed to help people arrested in widespread 2019 pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Zen was first arrested in May last year on suspicion of colluding with foreign forces under a Beijing-imposed national security law. His arrest sent shockwaves through the Catholic community, although the Vatican only stated it was monitoring the development of the situation closely.
While Zen has not yet been charged with national security-related charges, he was charged with failing to properly register the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, which helped pay medical and legal fees for arrested protesters. It ceased operations in October 2021.