Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun has questioned the way in which former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen allegedly tried to secure a meeting with the pope in 2008, more than a week after the allegations emerged.
Zen said he did not understand why Tsang would have enlisted the help of Duncan Pescod, then Hong Kong's representative to the European Union, in 2008, and that of Sergio De Gregorio, a former political ally of Italian ex-premier Silvio Berlusconi.
Zen told reporters yesterday: "Why bother the side in Italy? If Tsang wanted to meet the pope, he should have asked the Vatican's representative here, Monsignor [Eugene] Nugent to do so."
Nugent was head of the Holy See's study mission in Hong Kong from 2000 to 2010.
De Gregorio has alleged that, in 2008, he offered to help arrange a private audience with Pope Benedict XVI for Tsang if the Hong Kong government would stop the transfer of evidence to Italy related to a money laundering probe linked to Berlusconi.