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Shanghai priests, nuns forced to undergo reeducation classes

Lectures offered on the central theme of the Communist Party's National Congress

Shanghai priests, nuns forced to undergo reeducation classes

Priests of the Shanghai diocese attending a reeducation class on in early June. (Photo supplied)

Published: July 09, 2015 03:15 AM GMT

Updated: July 08, 2015 09:15 PM GMT

Priests and nuns in Shanghai diocese whose bishop is in detention are required to attend “learning” classes on the central theme of the National Congress of the Communist Party.

About 30 priests and a dozen nuns joined the program held June 9-11 at the Shanghai Institute of Socialism. It will be followed by another class in September for the rest of the diocese's priests and nuns, said James, a source who spoke to ucanews.com on condition of anonymity.

Priests and nuns in Shanghai diocese have been required to attend learning classes ever since their bishop, Thaddeus Ma Daqian, was placed under house arrest at Sheshan Seminary after he dramatically quit his government-appointed post in the Catholic Patriotic Association immediately following his episcopal ordination on July 7, 2012.

Shanghai diocese is currently managed by a five-member team, which has allowed Religious Affairs Bureau officials to tighten their grip on the diocese, the source said.

This year, the program was jointly run by the diocese, the Shanghai Religious Affairs Bureau and the Institute of Socialism. It focused on the theme of rule of law of the Fourth Plenary Session of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party.

The nuns and priests listened to presentations on the “rule of law and the development of the China Catholic Church” and “the current situation of the China Church and its mission”.

“It’s just a big joke to have such a theme. We have to ask what law leads to the indefinite detention of our bishop on no charges,” said James.

The patriotic association is a government-established body operating under the auspices of China's Communist Party's United Front. It does not accept ties to the Vatican or the pope and demands independence from principles that govern the way the Catholic Church operates worldwide.

The patriotic association has promoted many elected bishops without papal approval and is shunned by most Chinese Catholics who profess loyalty to the pope.

In last year’s program, government officials had promised that Bishop Ma would return as leader of the diocese only if China and the Vatican established diplomatic relations, said John, another source.

“Shanghai diocese now has two options: having the government-sanctioned Church authorities in Beijing assign a bishop to Shanghai from elsewhere, or we have to elect one among our priests. But both are not feasible solutions for us,” said John.

Shanghai diocese's Vatican-sanctioned operations have been problematic since the deaths of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian in 2013 and of Bishop Joseph Fan Zhongliang the following year. Bishop Ma’s detention has compounded the loss of leadership.

The Communist Party government of President Xi Jinping has tightened its control of ethnic and religious groups it sees as actually or potentially seditious, using extrajudicial detention of people it sees as a political threat or for their religious beliefs.

China still has "legal education classes" that the London-based Amnesty International rights group calls "brainwashing centers."

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