The cardinal said if the Vatican cannot get a 'good deal' from the Chinese government then it must walk away from negotiations

Cardinal Joseph Zen, the most senior Chinese Catholic, has said a possible deal between China and the Vatican would “betray Jesus Christ”.

An agreement between Rome and Beijing, in which the Vatican will acknowledge four state-appointed bishops, is reported to be near.

Earlier this month, Cardinal Zen called on the Vatican to stop the potential diplomatic deal with China, telling the Wall Street Journal that any such plan plan was “unacceptable” and a “surrender”, and he has now reiterated that appeal.

“Maybe the Pope is a little naive, he doesn’t have the background to know the Communists in China,” Cardinal Zen said at the Salesian school in Hong Kong, where he still teaches, the Guardian reports.

“The Pope used to know the persecuted Communists [in Latin America], but he may not know the Communist persecutors who have killed hundreds of thousands.”

The cardinal added: “You cannot go into negotiations with the mentality ‘we want to sign an agreement at any cost’, then you are surrendering yourself, you are betraying yourself, you are betraying Jesus Christ.

“If you cannot get a good deal, an acceptable deal, then the Vatican should walk away and maybe try again later. Could the Church negotiate with Hitler? Could it negotiate with Stalin? No.”

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) was established under Mao Zedong as a state-run replacement for the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church was driven underground by persecution and Catholics remain marginalised, hidden and frequently persecuted.

The Vatican has long been hostile to the CCPA and regarded its bishops as illegitimate. But according to recent reports, the Vatican could soon accept a quartet of CCPA-appointed bishops as part of a diplomatic deal.