Fears for new bishop after 'defection'

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 10 July, 2012, 12:00am


The new auxiliary bishop of Shanghai's Catholic diocese, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, has not been seen in public and is banned from carrying out his duties since announcing on Saturday that he was quitting the government-sanctioned Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association.

The Catholic news service ucanews.com said yesterday that Ma was in Shenshan, near Shanghai. Quoting local sources, the portal said Ma, 44, had freedom of movement but authorities had restricted him from exercising his ministry.

Ma is the first mainland bishop to announce he is giving up his association posts. He was vice-chairman of its Shanghai branch and a member of its national standing committee.

He said at his installation on Saturday that he wanted to focus on his ministry. 'Therefore ... it is not convenient for me to be a member of the Catholic Patriotic Association,' Ma said at St Ignatius Cathedral in Xuhui, to lengthy applause from the 1,000-member congregation.

Ma was installed with Vatican and Beijing approval. He was appointed auxiliary bishop by the Holy See but coadjutor bishop by the government. A coadjutor bishop automatically succeeds as bishop upon a bishop's retirement or death.

Priests and nuns of the Shanghai diocese received a text from Ma last night saying he felt 'mentally and physically exhausted' and needed 'a break and a personal retreat', ucanews.com reported.

A member of the cathedral's staff said yesterday there were 'about a hundred' police at the cathedral over the weekend but they only questioned the clergymen.

One member of the congregation said: 'I'm worried about the safety of Bishop Ma and I will pray for him.'

He said it was very brave of Ma to say he did not want to hold office in the association.

An official from the Shanghai branch of the association declined to comment on Ma's whereabouts, saying: 'I don't know. I haven't received relevant news.'