HONG KONG (AP) — Hong Kong's retired archbishop has warned that a deal between the Vatican and China that cedes too much power to Beijing would place the country's Catholic followers in a big "birdcage."

Cardinal Joseph Zen said Friday that the Holy See should abandon talks with China over contentious bishop nominations if it would have to compromise too much to please China's Communist rulers.

Zen compared China's underground Catholics to birds and said Beijing wants "the Vatican to help them to get all those birds into the cage."

Zen's comments come as tensions rise over a possible deal between the Vatican and Beijing.

The Roman Catholic Church is pushing for a historic breakthrough in relations with China but negotiations have touched off a bitter dispute inside the church.

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