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Former HK cardinal warns against Vatican-China deal

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Photographs by The Associated Press

Retired archbishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen gestures during an interview in Hong Kong, Friday, Feb. 9, 2018. Zen has warned that a deal between the Vatican and China that cedes too much power to Beijing would place the country's Catholic followers in a big "birdcage." (AP Photo/Vincent Yu)

HONG KONG -- Hong Kong's retired archbishop warned Friday that a deal between the Vatican and China that cedes too much power to Beijing would place the country's Catholic followers in a big "birdcage."

Cardinal Joseph Zen said the Holy See should abandon talks with China over contentious bishop nominations if it would have to compromise too much to please China's Communist rulers.

Zen compared China's underground Catholics to birds and said Beijing wants "the Vatican to help them to get all those birds into the cage."

Zen's comments come as tensions rise over a possible deal between the Vatican and Beijing.

The Roman Catholic Church is pushing for a historic breakthrough in relations with China but negotiations have touched off a bitter dispute inside the church.

Zen, 86, said there's no reason at the moment to believe in any goodwill from Beijing on working toward a reasonable compromise.

"The Communist government just wants the church to surrender, because they want complete control, not only of that Catholic church but all the religions," Zen said. "If that's true then there's no hope of getting a good agreement and ... at a certain moment you must say we cannot solve the problem, the problems are there so we go home, when we have anything new we come again."

China broke off relations with the Holy See in 1951, after the officially atheist Communist Party took power and established its own church.

The Vatican, particularly under Pope Francis, is has been eager to reach a deal with the Chinese government and unite the churches. A sticking point in the secret negotiations is whether Rome or Beijing has the final say over bishop appointments.

Unconfirmed reports say the Vatican is close to a compromise with China, which has an estimated 12 million Catholics. About half worship in "underground" churches that recognize only Rome as their highest authority while the rest belong to state-authorized churches with clergy named by Beijing.

The feisty and outspoken Zen, who retired in 2009, has been a longtime critic of China. In recent blog posts, he has slammed the talks as a catastrophe and described making a desperate journey to Rome in a personal effort to prevent a legitimate "underground" bishop from being replaced by an excommunicated one favored by Beijing.

Religion on 02/10/2018

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