The government-sanctioned Catholic bishops’ conference in China has revoked the appointment of Thaddeus Ma Daqin as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai, saying he violated their rules for episcopal ordinations. Joseph Liu Yuanlong, a vice chair of the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, confirmed on Dec. 12 that the association and the Bishops’ Conference of the Catholic Church in China had decided to revoke Bishop Ma’s approval letter as “coadjutor” bishop and dismiss him from all posts in the association and conference. They also called on the Shanghai Diocese to “deal with Ma in a serious manner,” he said.
At his ordination on July 7, the Vatican-approved bishop became the first to publicly quit the Patriotic Association, saying he wanted to devote himself to his ministry. His announcement, which occurred during his ordination, provoked a standing ovation from worshippers at the Mass. Since then, Bishop Ma has been in “retreat” at the Sheshan Regional Seminary in a Shanghai suburb.
The Patriotic Association and the bishops’ conference—neither of which is approved by the Vatican—accused Bishop Ma of deliberately preventing an illegitimate bishop and two other participating bishops from laying hands on his head during his ordination and forbidding them from receiving Communion.
“They also charged him with not publicly distinguishing whether he is coadjutor or auxiliary bishop, a title given by the pope” and said his oath “was incomplete as a result of deliberate damage to the sound system,” according to sources in China. In addition, they blamed him for the absence of many diocesan priests and nuns at the ordination and determined the declaration he made in his thanksgiving speech would have a damaging influence on others.
In a statement released at the Vatican on Dec. 13, Archbishop Savio Hon Tai-Fai, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, said even legitimately established and Vatican-recognized bishops’ conferences “do not have the power to name or approve a bishop, to revoke his mandate or to impose sanctions on him.” The Chinese government-sanctioned bishops’ conference, which is not recognized by the Vatican, has even less power, and the decision regarding Bishop Ma “lacks any juridical value,” he said.
The only thing the decision does, Archbishop Hon said, is “create division.” The archbishop said Bishop Ma “acted with laudatory fidelity to the church and professed his sincere love for his country.”
In addition, he said, Catholics from around the world have written to the Vatican “to demonstrate their sadness over the abuse committed by the so-called bishops’ conference of Catholic bishops of China and by the patriotic association.
“That abuse is even more painful because it attacks the communion and discipline of the Catholic Church precisely during the Year of Faith,” he said.
Archbishop Hon called on Catholics around the world to pray and join prayer services organized in their dioceses to demonstrate their solidarity “with Bishop Ma and those in China living in similar situations.”
According to internal sources, Bishop Ma can meet people and update his blog occasionally during his “retreat.” He currently posts his reflections on the daily Gospel on Weibo, a Twitter-like microblog, every morning. However, he has not been allowed to concelebrate with other priests at the seminary since Dec. 4.