Tuesday, July 10, 2012

China bishop, named by Rome, goes missing: agency

(Reuters) - A priest who quit China's state-sanctioned Catholic Church and was ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai with the approval of the pope at the weekend was taken away by officials after the ceremony and has not been heard from since, a Catholic online news service reported on Monday.

AsiaNews said Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daquin announced he was leaving the Communist Party-run Patriotic Catholic Association in Shanghai on Saturday in an address after being made auxiliary bishop of China's most populous city.

The ordination of bishops is a perennial test in dealings between China and the Vatican, and the naming of a new one from Rome without the support of China's Communist Party risks reigniting tensions. A Vatican spokesman confirmed the ordination, but declined to comment further.

Asianews did not say how it knew that Ma had been taken away by religious officials, but said he had failed to appear on Sunday before members of his congregation who had gone to hear him celebrate his first Mass since being ordained.

It quoted "local sources" as saying Ma was now "resting" in the Sheshan seminary, where he had studied.
Chinese officials were not immediately available for comment and Reuters was unable to confirm that Ma had been taken away.

Chinese Catholics number between 8 million and 12 million, and are divided between a state-sanctioned church that has installed bishops without Vatican approval and an "underground" wing long wary of associating with the Communist Party-run church.

Pope Benedict has encouraged the two sides of the divided Chinese church to reconcile, and engaged in a low-key dialogue with Beijing about political ties.

China and the Vatican broke off formal diplomatic relations shortly after the Chinese Communists took power in 1949.

To China's annoyance, the Holy See is one of the few states to preserve formal diplomatic ties with Taiwan - the self-ruled island that mainland China deems an illegitimate breakaway.

(Reporting by Steve Scherer in Rome and Ben Blanchard in Beijing; Editing by Kevin Liffey)


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