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Cardinal Joseph Zen speaks with LifeSiteNews in New York on February 14, 2020Jim Hale/LifeSiteNews

HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) — The emeritus bishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, has announced that he is in the hospital due to breathing problems, after pre-existing conditions worsened during his trip for Pope Benedict XVI’s funeral. 

The 91-year-old cardinal gave the health update in a post on his personal blog, addressed to “the prisoners,” whom he regularly visited for a number of years in his retired ministry.

He noted that his trip to Rome for Pope Benedict’s funeral was like a “miracle,” with all the elements which came together for the visit – which included the Chinese authorities granting Zen permission to leave Hong Kong for 5 days.

READ: Cdl. Zen allowed to leave Hong Kong for Pope Benedict’s funeral

“I went to Rome and felt that I was a teacher representing all Hong Kong and all China, and expressed our love to Pope Benedict XVI,” wrote Zen, who was made cardinal by Benedict in 2006.

“It was a happy four days, but it was also a hard four days,” Zen wrote about his brief trip to Rome. Zen, whose presence at the late pontiff’s funeral was a welcome sight for many, was physically assisted by a young priest during the funeral. He also walked with the use of a cane.

Cdl Zen at Pope Benedict’s funeral January 5, 2023.

He added that even prior to leaving for the papal funeral he was plagued by a variety of ailments including “shoulder inflammation, back pain, and numbness in both hands.”

With the trip apparently compounding such issues, Zen wrote that he was then a “patient” in a health center for 10 days upon his return. 

His health conditions did not relent, and his hands swelled up, Zen wrote. Furthermore, he revealed that on January 22 he began to have trouble breathing, which led to his hospitalization. 

Zen previously had to remain in the hospital for three weeks in 2016, when he suffered from a lung infection. He stated that the doctors have ruled out a resurgence of the infection in this latest hospitalization.

While noting his recent silence due to being hospitalized, Zen also wrote that he was being treated by “the best doctors in Hong Kong.” Addressing the prisoners, Zen added that he was not aware when he might be well enough to resume his regular ministry.

“But don’t forget, we are never apart in prayer,” he wrote. “I will keep praying for you all and please remember me in your prayers.”

Vatican journalist Diane Montagna added that the cardinal’s secretary had informed her that Zen’s doctors “determined he was suffering from adhesive capsulitis,” or frozen shoulder, a long-lasting condition whereby the shoulder’s movements become painful and very limited.

The secretary added Zen had received treatment successfully. “It is a good opportunity for His Eminence to take some rest,” he said.

Zen’s health ailments come atop of the past nine months, which saw him arrested by the Chinese Communist authorities under the terms of China’s draconian 2020 National Security Law. He was arrested along with his fellow trustees of the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund who subsequently joined him in court. 

The 612 Fund was established to offer “legal, medical, psychological, and emergency financial assistance” to those involved in the 2019 protests against the government’s Extradition Law Amendment Bill, which sought to allow prisoners to be transferred to mainland China for trial.

In November, Zen was found guilty of the lesser offense of failing to properly register the now-defunct 612 Humanitarian Relief Fund and was consequently fined HK $4,000 ($512). Zen and his fellow defendants had pled not guilty. 

However, Reuters reported that he could yet face further prosecution as police investigate “an accusation of ‘collusion with foreign forces.’” In light of this, Zen’s travel to Rome for Benedict’s funeral was contingent upon the authorities granting him freedom to travel and returning his passport. 

READ: Pope Francis finally meets with persecuted Cdl. Zen. Why now?

While in Rome, Zen was granted a private audience by Pope Francis, after the Pontiff famously refused to meet the cardinal on his last visit to Rome in 2020. According to Jesuit-run America Magazine, which broke the story, Zen described the meeting as “wonderful. He was so very warm!”

America’s report of the meeting portrayed a very cordial encounter between Zen and Francis, with no mention of any conversation about Francis’ secret deal with China or of Zen’s recent arrest and trial.