Cardinal Joseph Zen has described Vatican policy toward China as “terrible, terrible, terrible” in a new interview.

Cardinal Zen said that he strongly suspects that a diplomatic agreement between the Holy See and the Chinese government, which has never been made public, is substantially the same as a previous draft accord with Pope Benedict XVI refused to sign.

The retired bishop of Hong Kong, who has warned frequently about the campaign by the Chinese government to exert control over the Church, told New Bloom that his own recent relations with the Vatican have been “simply disastrous.”

In an extended conversation (which was published on the feast of St. Francis Xavier), Cardinal Zen revealed that when he first became a bishop, he worked closely with Cardinal Jozef Tomko, who at that time was prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization, in efforts to ease tensions between the Church and the Beijing regime. He said that these efforts had borne fruit, with the Vatican regularizing the status of several bishops who had been appointed by the government but were ready to pledge loyalty to the Holy See.

However, Cardinal Zen continued, the Vatican’s involvement took a different path when Cardinal Tomko was succeeded by Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, whom he bluntly characterized as “no good.” Cardinal Sepe in turn was succeeded by Cardinal Ivan Dias, who (Cardinal Zen commented) was a disciple of the late Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, the Secretary of State from 1979 to 1990. Cardinal Casaroli was noted for his willingness to seek accommodations with Communist regimes.

Still more recently, Cardinal Zen said, Vatican policy toward China has been driven by Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the current Secretary of State. The Chinese cardinal has frequently criticized Cardinal Parolin for failing to see the dangers in an agreement with Beijing.

Cardinal Zen revealed that he has not yet seen the text of the Vatican’s agreement with Beijing—despite his long involvement in the process, and his status as one of only two living Chinese members of the College of Cardinals.

As for his relations with Pope Francis, Cardinal Zen said that they are “personally wonderful relations.” However, he said, “he doesn’t answer my letters.” He said that Pope Francis “has low respect for his predecessors. He is shutting down everything done by John Paul II and by Pope Benedict.”

The above comes from a Dec. 4 story on Catholic