HONG KONG: In his first public remarks since he was arrested under Hong Kong's National Security Law earlier this month, Catholic Cardinal Joseph Zen has criticized the Vatican for its "unwise" deal with China, due for renewal in September.
Zen, 90, spoke at a mass at a Chinese Catholic church almost two weeks after being arrested with four other activists, as part of a national security police probe into foreign collusion over a legal support fund.
Zen was released on police bail pending possible formal charges.
At a gathering of 300 people at a small neighborhood church on Hong Kong island, Zen said, "The Vatican may have acted out of good faith, but they have made an unwise decision."
He also urged praying for "brothers and sisters who cannot attend the mass in any form tonight, for they have no freedom now."
Zen has long criticized the deal first signed in 2018, to close a longstanding divide across mainland China between an underground flock loyal to the Vatican and a state-backed official church.
In 2020, the Vatican-China agreement was extended, pending renewal later this year.
During his court appearance, Zen pleaded not guilty to a minor offense of failing to register the fund as a society with the police.
While the Vatican has expressed "concern" and said it was following developments "with extreme attention," the White House and human rights groups condemned the charges against Zen and other activists.
Without going into detail about his situation, Zen said it was not unusual for Catholics to "bear some pain."