Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai has been under house arrest since 2012
Four new priests of Shanghai Diocese take photo with Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen (middle) who officiated their priesthood ordination on June 7. (Photo supplied)
Four priests were ordained in Shanghai Diocese — the first such ordination since Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian died in 2013 — but most priests in the diocese avoided attending the ceremony.
About 30 priests from Shanghai and 10 from other dioceses concelebrated Mass for the June 7 ordination at St. Peter's Church that was officiated by Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen from neighboring Jiangsu province. Bishop Shen has dual approval from both the Vatican and the Chinese government.
Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai, who was placed under house arrest in 2012 and is currently the only bishop in Shanghai, did not show up for the priestly ordination ceremony for He Xiangxi, Ren Yining, Wu Yongtao and Wu Zhiqiang.
Only a third of the clergy in Shanghai Diocese were present, the rest "did not have time" to join.
"It was a negotiated result [with the government] to invite Bishop Shen to come and help," a source who asked not to be named told ucanews.com.
"But the local diocese still tacitly admits that they have their own bishop. Thus, most priests avoided attending the ceremony and only those bearing posts in the diocese were there," said the source.
Bishop Shen is currently the most influential church official in the open church community. He is the only bishop to be vice chairman in both the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA) and the bishops' conference, both of which are not recognized by the Vatican.
He is believed to be trusted by the government and insiders say that the authorities once considered him as a replacement for Bishop Ma as head of Shanghai Diocese.
Bishop Shen Bin of Haimen officiated the ordination of four new Shanghai priests on June 7. Less than half of the Shanghai clergy joined the ceremony. (Photo supplied)
Though there was no official reassignment from the government so far, it was not the first time for Bishop Shen to preside over ceremonies for Shanghai Diocese. In April 2016, he was the main celebrant in the commemoration Mass for the death centenary of Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian.
Bishop Shen also ordained a priest for Shanghai Diocese in 2013 but it was done at the Good Shepherd Cathedral of his own Haimen Diocese. This was the first time a priestly ordination has taken place in Shanghai since 2012.
The four new priests celebrated their first Mass on June 8 at Sheshan Minor Basilica which is in the same Shanghai suburb where Bishop Ma is kept under house arrest in a seminary. "It is a low-key way for them to meet Bishop Ma as the seminary is in the same location," said the source.
The priests had completed their priestly formation and were working in parishes for several years but could not be ordained due to the house arrest status of Bishop Ma.
Meanwhile, 17 nuns took their temporary and permanent vows during a Mass on May 18 that was presided by Father Wu Jianlin, convener of the Shanghai Diocese's management team. Since 2013, authorities had stopped nuns from taking their vows.
Among the 70 priests who concelebrated the Mass, only about 20 were from the Shanghai Diocese.
The priesthood ordination and vow-taking of the nuns took place after Bishop Ma concelebrated with Bishop Zhan Silu of Mindong, a government-appointed bishop whom the Vatican does not recognize, on Easter Sunday, April 16.
Two nuns in Shanghai Diocese take their vows on May 18. Their vow-taking ceremony had been withheld for years due to the house arrest of Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin. (ucanews.com photo)
It also came after Bishop Ma rejoined and took up two posts of the CPA in September 2016 and in January this year. The bishop was placed under house arrested after he publicly quit the CPA during his episcopal ordination on July 7, 2012.
"These were the 'two mistakes' — quitting the CPA in public and rejecting Bishop Zhan of Mindong to bless him — Bishop Ma made during his ordination. Now the mistakes are remedied as far as the authorities are concerned," said a second source who asked not to be named.
"But I think it is still early to believe Bishop Ma could return to complete freedom. He compromised by taking up the two CPA posts and concelebrating with Bishop Zhan so now the government allows the ordination and the vow-taking ceremony to take place," the source said.
However, Bishop Ma's recent acts have not been received well by most Catholics, especially given that concelebrating Mass with an bishop whom the Vatican does not recognize is regarded as sacrilege. The same Catholics also shun the CPA which they see as controlling the church and for being incompatible with Catholic doctrine for its advocacy of an independent church principle.
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