Rev. Thaddeus Ma Daqin gives the holy communion to a woman at Sheshan Cathedral, Shanghai

The bishop who stood up to China

by Sui-Lee Wee, Reuters  |  published on April 1, 2014


SHANGHAI | It was shaping as a win in the Communist Party’s quest to contain a longtime nemesis, the Roman Catholic Church.

In July 2012, a priest named Thaddeus Ma Daqin was to be ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. The Communist body that has governed the church for six decades had angered the Holy See by appointing bishops without Vatican approval. Known as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, it was now about to install Ma, one of its own officials, as deputy in China’s largest Catholic diocese.

“The anticipation was he would be a yes man,” says Jim Mulroney, a priest and editor of the Hong Kong-based Sunday Examiner, a Catholic newspaper.

Instead, standing before a thousand Catholics and government officials at Saint Ignatius Cathedral, Ma spurned the party: It wouldn’t be “convenient” for him to remain in the Patriotic Association, he said. Many in the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. People wept. Ma had switched sides – and a crisis was under way.

The priest soon disappeared from public view, instructed by the late bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian to move to a mountainside seminary outside Shanghai, where he has been confined for 20 months. He was stripped of his new title, questioned by officials for weeks and required to attend communist indoctrination classes.

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