A Chinese Catholic bishop–ordained by the Vatican as the auxiliary bishop of Shanghai in the summer–had his official title taken away by the Chinese Communist Party, drawing the ire of Catholic associations and the Holy See.
Thaddeus Ma Daqin has not been seen since July, when he was placed on house arrest after publicly resigning from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA), an entity that the Vatican does not recognize, according to Catholic news websites.
“Yes, he has been removed,” a spokesman with the Shanghai branch of the CPCA told the AFP news agency, without elaborating further.
Ma was the first Catholic bishop to publicly quit the CPCA. He said his ordination could no longer be part of the CPCA, drawing applause from the congregation.
Ma was later placed under investigation, and officials said he was “resting.”
Savio Hon Tai-fai, the Hong Kong-based Chinese Archbishop, described Ma’s title removal by the CPCA and the official Bishops’ Conference of China as an “abuse of power,” reported the Catholic news service AsiaNews.it.
“This so-called ‘Bishops’ Conference has never been recognized by the Holy See,” Savio Hon told the website.
“No conference in the world has the power to appoint or remove a bishop, least of all this ‘so-called’ conference, which is not recognized by the pope,” he added. “This is a clear case of abuse of authority. Anyone involved in this act will have to explain why they have decided to cause such harm to the Church and the communion of the Church, both in China and in the world.”
A spokesman with the Vatican said he is deeply worried about Ma’s current situation, and the apparent abuse of power carried out by Chinese authorities.
“In the absence of freedom of religion or in the presence of strong limitations, does it not pertain to the whole Church to defend the legitimate rights of Chinese faithful, and primarily to the Holy See to give voice to those who have none?” Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said, according to Vatican Radio.
Father Lombardi said in a statement that the Vatican has not been informed of Ma’s current whereabouts or situation. “The Holy See at this time does not have any information other than what has appeared in the media,” it reads.
China and the Vatican severed ties in 1951 after the Holy See recognized the Taiwanese government instead of the Chinese Communist Party.
Some estimates put the number of Catholic adherents in China at 12 million, with most worshiping in unauthorized “house churches” that are not approved of by the CPCA.
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