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Vatican Rebukes Hong Kong Cardinal Over Outreach to China

In this Jan. 10, 2018 photo made available the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, retired archbishop of Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen hands a letter to Pope Francis at the end of his weekly general audience.

The Vatican has expressed its disapproval of the retired archbishop of Hong Kong over his criticisms of the Holy See's actions in mainland China.

In a long post on his Facebook page, Cardinal Joseph Zen lashed out at the Vatican for asking for the resignations of two bishops aligned with China's underground Roman Catholics, who are loyal to the Church, in favor of two others ordained by the state-sanctioned association. China's 12 million Catholics are split between the two factions.

"Do I think the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China? Yes, definitely," Zen wrote. He said when he discussed the situation with Pope Francis earlier this month at the Vatican, the pontiff implied that he did not favor the outcome and was not fully aware of what his diplomats were doing.

In response, the Vatican described Cardinal Zen's remarks as "surprising and regrettable," and insists Pope Francis "is in constant contact with his collaborators."

Diplomatic ties between the Vatican and China were severed after the communists took control in 1949, but Francis sought to improve ties with Beijing since his election in 2013.