Hong Kong's former cardinal accuses Vatican of 'selling out' Catholic Church to Beijing

A former bishop of Hong Kong has accused the Vatican of "selling out" the Catholic Church to China by pursuing diplomatic relations with Beijing despite its ongoing crackdown on religious liberty.

(REUTERS / Bobby Yip / File Photo)Former head of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong Cardinal Joseph Zen (C) takes part in a kick-off ceremony to urge people to vote in an unofficial referendum. June 20, 2014.

In a blog post, Cardinal Joseph Zen said the Vatican was indeed "selling out" the Church in China if it continues to accommodate the bishop assignments chosen by Beijing. The 86-year-old former bishop's comments were referring to the issue of bishop appointments which hindered the diplomatic relations between Beijing and the Vatican, the Financial Times detailed.

"So, do I think that the Vatican is selling out the Catholic Church in China?" said Cardinal Zen in his blog post. "Yes, definitely, if they go in the direction which is obvious from all they are doing in recent years and months."

Francesco Sisci, a China-Vatican relations expert, explained that there were still priests who are not recognized by the Chinese Communist Party, even though some of the "underground" churches have been reconciled with government-appointed bishops.

Cardinal Zen's protest came amid China's ongoing crackdown on religious practices not sanctioned by the government. In fact, authorities have removed crosses from Protestant churches that were built without the state's permission and ordered "house churches" to stop their gatherings.

On Jan. 30, the Vatican issued a response to Cardinal Zen's recent criticism, expressing regret over the "confusion and controversy" that some people in the Church were causing. While the statement did not mention the Hong Kong bishop's name, official Vatican sources said it was prompted by the issue over the ties with Beijing, Reuters reported.

Zen's words echoed the thoughts of critics who said the Vatican had sold out to the Chinese communists when it forced Cardinal Joseph Mindszenty to leave after seeking refuge in Budapest for 15 years. The Holy See, on the other hand, said the order was needed to keep the Catholic Church safe from further persecution at the time.