Cardinal Joseph Zen has accused the Vatican of “selling out” the Chinese Church.

His remark came after a rare private audience with Pope Francis. The cardinal met Francis in 2013 but has since expressed fears his letters to the Pope have not reached him.

He had travelled to Rome to personally hand a letter to Pope Francis from an “underground” prelate, Bishop Zhuang – one of two bishops who have been asked by a Vatican delegation to resign or accept demotion to make way for government-backed bishops.

Cardinal Zen gave the Pope the letter at his weekly general audience.

Later that day, he received a phone call saying Pope Francis would receive him in a private audience on Friday. Cardinal Zen said that during that audience, he asked Pope Francis whether he had had time to “look into the matter”.

The Pope responded: “Yes, I told them not to create another Mindszenty case!”

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