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Shanghai bishop says Mass with govt appointed prelate

Chinese Catholics say it is blasphemy to concelebrate Mass with a bishop not recognized by the Vatican
Shanghai bishop says Mass with govt appointed prelate
Bishop Zhan Silu of Mindong, who is not approved by the Vatican, concelebrated Easter Mass with Bishop Ma Daqin of Shanghai  on April 17. (Photo supplied/Mindong Diocese's Wechat)
Published: April 17, 2017 10:30 AM GMT
Updated: April 21, 2017 10:03 AM GMT

A bishop under house arrest in China held his first public Mass since 2012 but concelebrated it with a government-appointed bishop not recognized by the Vatican.

Vatican-approved Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai concelebrated Easter Mass with Bishop Vincent Zhan Silu at Mindong Cathedral.

A report on the Mass posted on Mindong Diocese's Wechat account on April 16 said, "In the beginning of the Mass, Bishop Zhan introduced Bishop Ma from Shanghai to the faithful and they welcomed him with a long applause."

The move has surprised many Chinese Catholics as Bishop Ma was stripped of his title by the Chinese government and placed under house arrest in 2012 after he publicly resigned from the state-controlled Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).

The Wechat report was soon removed from the internet but not before it spread via social media by shocked Catholics who said it was a blasphemy to concelebrate Mass with a bishop who is not recognized by the Vatican.

A source close to the Vatican was displeased with the news.

"This is another game by the Chinese government to destroy Bishop Ma" and as "always to create discontent among the people in Shanghai, in Mindong and in China," the source who asked not to be named told ucanews.com.

Many Shanghai Catholics were disheartened upon hearing of the concelebrated Mass. They wondered if Bishop Ma is moving closer to reclaim recognition from the Chinese government as it was the first public Mass he celebrated since 2012.

In June 2016, Bishop Ma recanted his 2012 declaration to quit the CPA and praised the organization even though most Catholics despise it for controlling the church on behalf of the government. He then accepted two posts from the CPA of Shanghai in the capacity of priest.

Many Chinese Catholics saw it as a further attempt by Bishop Ma to curry favor with the Chinese authorities.

 

Bishop Zhan Silu of Mindong embraced Bishop Ma Daqin of Shanghai at Easter Mass on April 16. (Photo supplied/Mindong Diocese's Wechat)

 

A Chinese blogger who asked not to be named said the authorities must be displeased with the news that led to the removal of the report. "It described Ma as bishop before the authorities officially reinstated him," said the blogger. 

"Both prelates also did not wear their mitre or hold their staff. In other words, they are concelebrating as priests," the blogger said.

 

Two bishops remain detained

Underground Catholics also point at the suspected detention of Vatican-appointed Bishop Vincent Guo Xijin of Mindong, an underground bishop whom the government does not recognize. Bishop Guo has been detained since April 7.

Majority of the estimated 80,000 Catholics in Mindong Diocese belong to the underground church. Local Catholics said the move was to prevent the new bishop from presiding over his first Chrism Mass.

Bishop Guo was one of two underground bishops that officials took away from their dioceses during Holy Week.

Bishop Peter Shao Zhumin of Wenzhou was also taken away on April 12. Church members have sent some clothes to him since then which means he may not be coming back soon, according to sources in Wenzhou.

These events have played out while the Vatican and Beijing are conducting ongoing negotiations over the appointment of bishops.

The deal, long sought after by the Vatican, would be for Beijing to accept some 20 bishop candidates that the Vatican has appointed in recent years and more than 30 underground bishops that are not recognized by Beijing.

In exchange, the Holy See will pardon seven China-appointed bishops that have no papal approval.

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