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Shanghai ordination under investigation

Chinese authorities step in after bishop defects from state organization

Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, center, attends a protest in front of the Central Government liaison office today Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong, center, attends a protest in front of the Central Government liaison office today
  • ucanews.com reporter, Hong Kong
  • China
  • July 11, 2012
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Two government-sanctioned Catholic Church organizations today announced an investigation into the recent ordination of a Vatican-approved bishop in Shanghai for violations of bodies’ regulations.

The Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA) and the Bishops’ Conferences of the Catholic Church in China (BCCCC) said in a statement posted on their website that the ordination of Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin on July 7 “allegedly violated seriously the BCCCC’s regulations with regard to bishops’ election and ordination.”

A Church source in Shanghai added today that the bishops who participated in the ordination ceremony have also been included in the investigation.

“Five participating bishops have been summoned to Beijing to give an account of it,” the source said.

During the ceremony, Bishop Ma announced that he would give up his membership in the local CPA body and his standing membership in the national organization.

He was led away shortly after the ceremony by an unidentified group of people and has since been prohibited from assuming the duties of his office, according to local Church sources who attended the event.

Officials from the Communist Party of China’s United Front Work department, which oversees religious affairs in the country, were expected to meet today with representatives from the CCPA and the bishops’ conference, both of which are not considered recognized Catholic bodies by the Vatican.

A Church observer who asked not to be named characterized the investigation notice as a “delaying tactic” to avoid answering media inquiries, adding that it suggests that Chinese authorities regard the ordination as unacceptable.

“Views are split on how to handle it,” the observer said.

Questions linger on the whereabouts of Bishop Ma, with some suggesting that he has been arrested and others saying he has been restricted to the grounds of the Sheshan Seminary in Shanghai.

“Saying that Ma Daqin has been detained, put under house arrest or disappeared are just rumors,” an unnamed spokesperson wrote on the Shanghai diocese’s website today. The post fueled further speculation over the unorthodox use of Bishop Ma’s name without his title.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun of Hong Kong joined a protest rally organized by Hong Kong diocese’s Justice and Peace Commission in front of the Central Government’s liaison office today.  Bishop Ma studied under Cardinal Zen at the Sheshan Seminary from 1989 until his appointment as coadjutor bishop of Hong Kong in 1996.

“We understand the situation in China,” Cardinal Zen told ucanews.com

“The Shanghai diocese is under great pressure to post such a notice, though it is useless to prove what is obvious.”

Or Yan-yan, an officer with the Justice and Peace Commission, said that restricting Bishop Ma to the seminary was “equivalent to house arrest.”

She added that there were serious doubts about the authenticity of a reported text message sent by Bishop Ma to explain his absence at Mass the day after his ordination.

The message cited the need for rest and that he had made a retreat to the Sheshan Seminary.

“It makes no sense for him to have rushed to a retreat without presiding over his first Mass, which was scheduled,” she said.

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