By BosNewsLife Asia Service
BEIJING, CHINA (BosNewsLife)– Chinese Christians remained concerned Friday, July 13, over the whereabouts of a newly appointed Chinese bishop who was
detained this week after publicly resigning from his position in China’s state-backed church.
Shanghai’s auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin announced that he was leaving the Catholic Patriotic Association during his ordination speech, July 7.
“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 chaplaincy and evangelism,” he said in published remarks.
“It is not convenient to hold any other position any more, so, from this moment of ordination, I will no longer be a member of the Patriotic Association,” Ma added.
The announcement of the 44-year-old bishop was reportedly greeted with applause by hundreds of worshipers in Shanghai’s Cathedral of St. Ignatius, the seat of one of China’s largest, wealthiest and most independent dioceses.
Analysts said the move marked the biggest public challenge to Beijing’s control over the Catholic clergy, and other Christians, in years.
The Catholic Patriotic Association is recognized by the Chinese government but considered illegitimate by the Vatican.
Several state officials were in the audience during his ordination speech, Christians said. Ma reportedly disappeared following Saturday’s ceremony.
No-one has been able to contact Ma, who is believed to be held inside the Sheshan Sanctuary in Shanghai, unable to communicate with the outside world, according to Catholic church sources.
The Vatican said in a statement that it has “no direct contact with him and have no detailed information.”
SOURCE OF JOY
Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi stressed that while Ma’s ordination “was a source of joy and satisfaction” for the Vatican, he regretted that this “anomalous and negative situation has been created.”
The pope had issued its approval of Beijing’s selection of him to take over as auxiliary, giving him day-to-day control over the Shanghai diocese and placing him next in line after 96-year-old Shanghai Bishop Jin Luxian.
Church observers say that while these agreements were common in past, Beijing has in recent years moved to assert its authority by acting independently.
Last week, it appointed a new bishop in the northeastern city of Harbin who did not have papal approval and was immediately excommunicated by the Vatican.
China has up to 12 million Catholics, around half of whom worship in underground congregations, according to conservative estimates. However officials have acknowledged there may be as many as 130 million Christians in China, many of them evangelicals gathering in underground house churches. (With BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos).