You have by now seen the news everywhere: Cardinal Joseph Zen was arrested yesterday, May 11 – and later released on bail – in Hong Kong. I was lucky to get a very early heads-up and posted the news links as soon as I received it!

For me, if you have followed his life, especially in recent years, Cardinal Zen is a saint-in-waiting. In case you need to be refreshed, some of his background appears in the link to the Register story as well as the Vatican news report.

Is he perhaps a “white martyr”?

Aleteia, in a report on three types of martyrdom, explained that, “white martyrdom is typically defined as being persecuted for the faith, but never shedding any blood. It consists of living a life boldly for Christ, yet never being asked to die for it.”

Cardinal Zen would not be the only “white martyr” in today’s world!

If you are a reader of Joan’s Rome and my Facebook page, you know full well how I feel about the Vatican’s 2018 agreement with the Chinese government on the naming of bishops and the renewal of that agreement in October 2020. Since 2018, I have been mystified – as have countless others! – as to why the Vatican would sign an agreement with a country that has persecuted – and continues to do so – Christians, especially Catholics. Churches have been burned, destroyed or closed, crosses removed from churches and church buildings, statues destroyed, bishops imprisoned, priests asks to sign documents basically saying they agree with the communist government, etc., etc.

You know I’m not making this up.

Two years ago, as Hong Kong was awaiting Pope Francis to name a new bishop, Cardinal Joseph Zen, former bishop of Hong Kong, 88 at the time, came to Rome, hoping to meet Pope Francis to plead with him to give Hong Kong a true shepherd for the Hong Kong flock.

That papal audience was not granted. No explanation. No reason. Silence.

For full story: Cardinal Zen Appeals to the Pope: Please Send a Faithful Shepherd to Hong Kong| National Catholic Register (

I have had this photo on my laptop since the cardinal’s 2020 visit to Rome, and it always brings tears to my eyes!

Now, I ask you to please set aside 11 minutes for a riveting, extremely informational commentary on Cardinal Zen, the Vatican and China by Andrew Bolt of Sky News Australia. You may recall a few years back that Bolt was one of the most vocal defendants of Cardinal George Pell when he was in prison in Australia. Bolt, along with credible guests, made excellent legal points every time he dedicated a segment to the Pell case. He does the same here with Ed Condon of The Pillar: (9) Cardinal Joseph Zen’s arrest is ‘very serious’ and ‘not surprising’ – YouTube

Following is a Vatican news report on Cardinal Zen’s arrest:


Cardinal Joseph Zen was detained in Hong Kong on Wednesday by the police force set up to oversee national security, and charged with “collusion with foreign forces” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund. The director of the Vatican Press Office says the Holy See is closely following developments in the situation.

By Salvatore Cernuzio (vaticannews)

Ninety-year-old Cardinal Joseph Zen, who was the bishop of the Diocese of Hong Kong from 2002 to 2009, was arrested on Wednesday by Hong Kong authorities.

The cardinal has reportedly been released on bail, according to reports circulated via social media by local journalists who also posted photos of Cardinal Zen outside the Wan Chai police station.

As he left the police station around 11 PM Hong Kong time, the Cardinal reportedly got immediately into a car, without offering any comments.

Arrest and charges

The Cardinal was detained on Wednesday evening by the police section set up to monitor China’s national security.

According to local sources, he is currently being held at a police station for questioning. The cardinal is charged with “collusion with foreign forces,” in connection with his role as administrator of the 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund, a fund that supported pro-democracy protesters in paying for the legal and medical expenses they faced.

“The Holy See has learned with concern the news of Cardinal Zen’s arrest and is following the evolution of the situation with extreme attention,” said the Director of the Holy See Press Office, Matteo Bruni, in response to journalists’ questions on Thursday afternoon.

Three other arrests

Cardinal Zen was one of the trustees of the organisation, established in 2019 and dissolved in October last year.

In addition to the cardinal, authorities also arrested other promoters of the fund, including well-known lawyer Margaret Ng, a former opposition MP; academic Hui Po-keung; and singer-songwriter Denise Ho. Their arrests were confirmed by Hong Kong legal sources.


Local media reported the arrest, saying that the law enforcement investigation focuses on alleged “collusion” by the 612 Fund with “foreign forces,” in violation of the national security law imposed by Beijing in June 2020.

The charge leveled against those arrested is one of four offences under the city’s National Security Act, designed to quash pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. The new law has been internationally condemned. The other offences listed in the act – subversion, secession and terrorism – can carry sentences of up to life imprisonment.

Already in recent months, several Hong Kong media outlets have accused Cardinal Zen of inciting students in 2019 to revolt against a series of government measures. In the past, Cardinal Zen has also criticized the Chinese Communist Party for allegedly persecuting religious communities.



Press release of the Holy See Press Office: 9:30 pm Friday, June 5, 2020: Today, the Office of the Promotor of Justice of the Vatican Tribunal, at the end of the interrogation of Mr. Gianluigi Torzi, who was assisted by his trusted lawyers, issued an arrest warrant against him. The provision, signed by the Promotor of Justice, Prof. Gian Piero Milano, and his Deputy, Avv. Alessandro Diddi, was issued in relation to the well-known events connected with the sale and purchase of the London property on Sloane Avenue, which involved a network of companies in which some Secretariat of State officials were present. The accused is charged with various incidents of extortion, embezzlement, aggravated fraud and self-laundering, crimes for which Vatican law provides for penalties of up to twelve years of imprisonment. At present Mr. Gianluigi Torzi is detained in special premises at the barracks of the Gendarmerie Corps.