12/10/2012, 00.00
VATICAN - CHINA
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Under arrest, Mgr Ma Daqin is stripped of his title as Shanghai bishop

by Wang Zhicheng
Mgr Thaddeus Daqin quit the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association the day of his ordination as a token of obedience to the pope. He also refused to share communion with an excommunicated bishop. The government-sanctioned Bishops' Conference, which stripped him of his title, is not recognised by the Holy See. Xi Jinping's leadership elicits hopes and brings disappointments.

Shanghai (AsiaNews) - For the past several months, the courageous auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, Mgr Thaddeus Ma Daqin, has been under house arrest. Ordained last 7 July, he might lose his Episcopal post after government-sanctioned Bishops' Conference of the Catholic Church of China (BCCCC) revoked his appointment, UCANews reported. Sources told AsiaNews the rumours circulating on the subject of Mgr Ma are true, but no official decision has yet to be made public.

The brutal action against the auxiliary bishop did not come as a surprise. On the day of his Episcopal ordination, Mgr Ma challenged the government's 60-year Church policy by resigning from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), which controls the Church, and by refusing to share the chalice with a bishop excommunicated by the Holy See.

Worshippers present at the ceremony gave the new prelate a long standing ovation. For many, he came to embody the courage exhibited by many Chinese priests and bishops. However, the authorities are truly terrified by the possibility that many more might reject the CPCA, and thus undermining party control.

Right after his ordination, the new bishop was placed under house arrest at the diocesan seminary, near Our Lady of Sheshan shrine. Since then, he has been denied the right to wear the zucchetto, ring, pectoral cross and all other tokens of his Episcopal office. Recently, he has also been denied the right to co-celebrate Mass with other priests. Seminarians and nuns who helped the bishop in his act of defiance were also punished.

Founded in 1958 on the orders of Mao Zedong, the CPCA wants to set up a Catholic Church that is independent of the Holy See, one that would see bishops named and elected independently of the pope. In his Letter to Chinese Catholics, Benedict XVI wrote that such a proposition is "incompatible with Catholic doctrine."

The Holy See does not recognise the BCCCC, which appears to have removed Mgr Ma from office, because it includes only bishops recognised by China's Communist authorities, some of whom have been excommunicated. No underground bishop is a member.

The action against Mgr Ma comes a few weeks after the Chinese Communist Party held its congress, and chose a new leadership, that of the fifth generation, under Xi Jinping, the new party general secretary, who will in a few months time also become China's president.

Many analysts have praised the new leader as a sober reformer who could improve the situation of religious freedom in China. However, the latest events indicate the opposite.

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