Zen leaves without securing private meeting with Pope

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 29 March, 2006, 12:00am

Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun left Rome for home yesterday without securing a private audience with the Pope.

It had been understood that a meeting was to have been arranged at which Cardinal Zen would brief the pontiff on the situation in China.

But Father Dominic Chan Chi-ming, vicar-general of the Hong Kong Catholic diocese, said it was not unusual that the cardinal was leaving without meeting Pope Benedict privately. 'Both of them have been very busy and the main reason for Cardinal Zen's trip was to participate in the liturgy celebrations,' Father Chan said before the 140-strong Hong Kong delegation boarded their flight home. 'He will meet the Holy Father in private when he returns to Rome for meetings, possibly in May.'

Cardinal Zen met the Pope several times in ceremonies and group audiences during his week-long visit to the Vatican, where he was formally elevated to cardinal.

Father Chan denied the lack of a private audience was to avoid provoking Beijing. The Vatican directed a number of positive remarks towards Beijing during the week and is believed to be waiting for a return gesture.