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Chinese bishop's Weibo account blocked, movement restricted

Authorities pull plug over 'concern at 50,000 netizens using prelate's social media for daily prayers'

ucanews.com reporters, Hong Kong and Bangkok

ucanews.com reporters, Hong Kong and Bangkok

Published: May 03, 2016 07:51 AM GMT

Updated: May 06, 2016 06:26 AM GMT

Chinese bishop's Weibo account blocked, movement restricted

Five bishops from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces celebrated a memorial Mass on April 27 for late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian. (Photo supplied)

Chinese authorities have slapped fresh restrictions on Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin.

The bishop who is under house arrest, has had his popular social media Weibo account shuttered and was refused permission last week to attend a commemorative Mass for predecessor Bishop Aloysius (Louis) Jin Luxian.

Ma, who controversially, stepped down from the official state-run Catholic Patriotic Association after being ordained a bishop in 2012, has been confined in Sheshan Seminary ever since.

Up until March he was permitted to post articles on his blog and post prayers on Weibo, an equivalent to Twitter, to lead some 50,000 followers in prayer each day.

On April 27, a memorial service for the late Coadjutor Bishop Jin of Shanghai was officiated by bishops from neighboring dioceses, however Ma, whose confinement had appeared to be being loosened, was barred from attending.

The Mass was held to mark the third anniversary of the death of Bishop Jin and the centenary of his birth. 

It was presided by Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan on the outskirts of Shanghai.

Four other bishops and about 60 priests concelebrated the liturgy attended by more than 1,000 people.

The bishops, from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, are all board members of Sheshan Seminary.

Bishop Jin died in 2012 after serving as the government-approved bishop of Shanghai from 1988. 

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He returned to Shanghai in 1982 after 27 years in various forms of detention to resume the job he had left in 1955 — rector of the diocesan seminary. 

Asked later why he accepted both appointments (he was later confirmed by the Vatican as bishop) with all the supervision a communist government imposes, his response was simple: "Christianity has had three starts in China. I don't want it to need a fourth". 

Always wary of government intrusion into the church, he accepted the Communist Party's totalitarian rule as a given. 

Though he resides in the seminary located at the foot of the hilltop basilica, Bishop Ma could not attend the service.

In recent years his situation had become less restrictive and he was allowed to receive visitors.

However, his Weibo account suddenly closed in March.

"There are now too many Catholics attending his morning Masses and that irked the authorities," a church source told ucanews.com.

Bishop Ma has written four articles commemorating Bishop Jin on his blog, which has not been closed. The latest one posted on April 5 recalled a People's Daily interview with Bishop Jin in 2000 about his views on religion and socialism.

Drawing inspiration from Bishop Jin's thoughts on mutual adaption of Catholicism and China's socialist society, Bishop Ma interpreted "sinicization" — the key phrase used by China's leadership in its recent summit on religion — to being close to the church's aim of "inculturation," or making the liturgy relevant to local cultures.

However, Ma's interpretation was not well-received by some Catholics, who thought he was trying to appease authorities.

"It seems that Bishop Ma is ready to 'graduate from his repentance' and follow the party's direction to walk the path of an independent church," an anonymous blogger commented on Bishop Ma's blog post.

Catholic commentator Yu Si told ucanews.com that "inculturation" means how to blend local culture to fit into church doctrine while 'sinicization' is to change the doctrine to fit local [one party] politics."

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