The Vatican says it is "surprising and regrettable" that a cardinal suggested that Pope Francis was out of the loop on negotiations between the Holy See and China, saying he is "faithfully" informed about developments and follows the issue with care.

The Vatican statement Tuesday was issued a day after the retired archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen, penned an extraordinary Facebook post revealing the behind-the-scenes drama over the contentious issue of bishop nominations in China.

Zen confirmed the Vatican had asked for a legitimate bishop to stand down in favor of an excommunicated one favored by Beijing. Zen said when he met with Francis Jan. 14 to discuss it, the pope said he didn't favor such an outcome, suggesting a rift with the Vatican secretariat of state.