Vatican lauds ordination of China's missing bishop

By David Kerr

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Saint Ignatius Cathedral in Shanghai, China. Credit: Heurik at de.wikipedia (CC-BY-SA-2.0-DE).

The Vatican has praised the approved ordination of a Chinese bishop, who is now missing after announcing his split from the state-controlled Catholic association during his ordination.

“The ordination of the Reverend Thaddeus Ma Daqin as Auxiliary Bishop of the Diocese of Shanghai on Saturday 7 July 2012 is encouraging and is to be welcomed,” said a July 10 Vatican communique.

During the ordination ceremony, Bishop Ma revealed that he was quitting his posts within the government-run Catholic Patriotic Association which refuses to acknowledge the authority of the Pope. 

“After today’s ordination, I would devote every effort to episcopal ministry. It is inconvenient for me to serve the CPA post anymore,” he said, according to the Catholic UCANews agency which reports on the Church in Asia.

The announcement by the 44-year-old native of Shanghai was made in front of several state officials and was seen by many as a rebuke to China’s communist regime. The 1,000-strong congregation in the city’s St. Ignatius Cathedral responded with rapturous applause.

Bishop Ma, however, has not been seen in public since. Various media outlets suggest he was whisked away by state-officials following the ceremony.

UCANews reports that priests and nuns in Shanghai have since received a text message from Bishop Ma’s cellphone claiming to be sent by him.

It states that he was “mentally and physically exhausted” and needed “a break” to make “a personal retreat.” It also claims he is residing in the Sheshan seminary near Shanghai.

The mystery surrounding Bishop Ma comes on the day the Vatican formally announced the excommunication of 48-year-old Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng following his illicit ordination as bishop of Harbin in north-east China on July 6.

“Consequently, the Holy See does not recognize him as Bishop of the Apostolic Administration of Harbin, and he lacks the authority to govern the priests and the Catholic community in the Province of Heilongjiang,” the July 10 communique reads.

The note also stipulates that those licitly ordained Catholic bishops who took part in the ordination have “exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the Church” and must now “give an account to the Holy See of their participation in that religious ceremony.”

It commends all Chinese Catholics who “prayed and fasted for a change of heart in the Reverend Yue Fusheng” and urges them to continue to “defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the Church.”

“Even amid the present difficulties, they look to the future with faith, comforted by the certainty that the Church is founded on the rock of Peter and his Successors.”

China has an estimated eight to twelve million Catholics, with about half of those worshiping within the Catholic Patriotic Association.

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