Bishop held in China after his resignation


THADDEUS MA Daqin, Shanghai’s auxiliary bishop, has been detained since he made a defiant announcement of his resignation from China’s Patriotic Catholic Association, which oversees China’s state-sanctioned Catholic Church, at his ordination Mass on Saturday.

The incident, at the Cathedral of St Ignatius, highlights the parlous state of relations between Beijing and the Vatican. The Vatican does not have diplomatic relations with the communist government but rather with rival Taiwan, which China considers a renegade province.

There were further strains in evidence yesterday when the Vatican refused to recognise the ordination on July 6th of Fr Joseph Yue Fusheng in Harbin, complaining that his elevation by the association had not been blessed by the pope and was meaningless.

“All Catholics in China – pastors, priests, consecrated persons and lay faithful – are called to defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the Church,” the Vatican said. It branded it an illicit act and said such actions “cause division and bring suffering to the Catholic communities in China and the universal Church”.

Catholic media say Bishop Ma has been confined in the Sheshan seminary near Shanghai. He failed to appear on Sunday to celebrate Mass.

In a video seen online, Bishop Ma told a 1,000-strong congregation that he was stepping down from the governing body to focus on his new responsibilities.

“At this moment, I recall that the Holy Church reminded me that when you serve as an assistant bishop in Shanghai, your body and mind should be completely focused on the ministry and evangelism,” he told the congregation.

“It is not convenient to hold any other position any more. Therefore, from this moment of ordination, I will no longer be a member of the patriotic association,” he said, to applause from the congregation.

The quotes were carried by the Xinhua news agency.

China and the Vatican broke off formal diplomatic relations not long after the Chinese communists took power in 1949.

Catholics are required to join the official China Patriotic Catholic Association, which has five million members and which repeatedly angers Rome by naming bishops without Vatican approval. Once “underground” churches are factored in, there are reckoned to be about 10 million Catholics in China.

Overall responsibility for the five major recognised religions – Buddhism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Islam and Daoism – is handled by the state administration for religious affairs. There are 28 million Christians officially, but the unofficial number is recognised as nearly 80 million.

Relations between Beijing and the Holy See have been tense for the past couple of years. They reached a low point after Pope Benedict’s Christmas Day Urbi et Orbi message in 2010, which condemned the persecution of Chinese Catholics.

Despite this strong public line, the pope has been more low-key behind the scenes and has encouraged both sides of the divided Chinese church to reconcile. Church emissaries have kept up behind- the-scenes dialogue with Beijing about political ties.

Last year, the Vatican denounced the ordination of a Chinese bishop without papal approval and excommunicated him.