By Beth Main.
Yesterday, China’s Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) renounced the title of Shanghai’s auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin. Ma was ordained in July 2012 with the blessing of both the CPCA and the Vatican, but subsequently announced his resignation from the CPCA and was immediately placed under house arrest.
The removal of his title is the latest episode in the fight between the state-controlled CPCA and the Vatican over who controls China’s Catholics. Ma’s job as auxiliary Bishop meant he was next in line to become bishop after the aged leader of the Shanghai diocese, Jin Luxian, dies or retires.
Ma Daqin announced his resignation from the CPCA in July at his ordination mass to a congregation of 1,000 who applauded his announcement. He was not-so-discreetly placed in the Sheshan seminary, where he trained in the outskirts of Shanghai, for a period of ‘personal reflection’. He soon disappeared from the seminary.
Since China removed Ma’s title yesterday the Vatican has reaffirmed its support for him and its own right as the sole religious body with the power to ordain Bishops.
Chinese Catholics are estimated to number between 8 million and 12 million but are divided between the CPCA and the ‘underground’ Vatican sanctioned Church. This power struggle has been going since Beijing broke ties with the Vatican in the 1950s, latest highlights include:
November 2010: China’s CPCA ordained Guo Jincai without the Vatican’s permission.
July 2011: The Vatican excommunicated Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin who was ordained by the CPCA.
April 2012: China allowed the same excommunicated Bishop Paul Lei Shiyin to ordain a new bishop, which really pissed off the Vatican.
As with all disputes between the Vatican and the CPCA, no-one mentions the elephant in the room, that the CPCA is governed by an officially atheist state.