Shanghai’s new bishop showed great courage by announcing that he will not hold any position in the Patriotic AssociationGerard O’Connell
(Vatican Insider) Shanghai has a new bishop - Thaddeus Ma Daqin. He was ordained with the approval of Pope Benedict XVI and the Government of the People’s Republic of China on July 7.
Showing courage and leadership, Bishop Ma told the congregation of more than 1200 people present at the ceremony– including government officials – that he would no longer hold any position in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). At the time of his ordination he was vice-chairman of Shanghai CCPA and a member of the national CCPA’s standing committee.
The CCPA was created by the Beijing Government in the late 1950s to control the Catholic Church in the mainland, but Benedict XVI stated clearly in his 2007 letter to Catholics in China that this association is “incompatible” with Catholic doctrine.
“After today’s ordination, I will devote every effort to Episcopal ministry. It is inconvenient for me to serve the CCPA post anymore,” Bishop Ma told the congregation.
The more than 1000 Catholics present in the Cathedral broke into long and thunderous applause at his announcement, UCA News reported. It was the first time in recent memory – and perhaps ever - that a bishop of the ‘open’ Church community had made such an audacious statement at his ordination.
The 96-year old Jesuit Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, who heads the ‘open’ Church community in this megalopolis of 23 million people and is in communion with the Pope, was the main celebrant at this solemn event in St Ignatius Cathedral, at which five other bishops – four of them recognized by the Holy See - participated.
Bishop Jin was the first to lay hands on the man who is destined to succeed him. He was assisted by Bishop Joseph Xu Honggen (Suzhou) and Joseph Shen Bin (Haimen), who also laid hands on Ma.
There were three other bishops present at the ceremony - Joseph Cai Bingrui (Xiamen), John Baptist Li Suguang (Nanchang), and the illicitly ordained Vincent Zhan Silu (Mindong), but significantly they did not lay hands on Ma, UCA News reported. This seems to have been the result of a compromise reached earlier, because before the event many Catholics were concerned that Bishop Zhan would have laid hands on the new pastor. By doing so he avoided creating problems and embarrassment for the Catholic community.
Still, as UCA News reported, most of the 86 priests of Shanghai’s “open’ Church community avoided being present at the celebration with the illicit bishop. Indeed, only 30 priests concelebrated the mass and of these 12 were from the diocese. Bishop Ma referred to this in his speech when he said. “Because of special reasons, many diocesan priests and nuns did not come here. I love you so much. You are my strength”. These, like his earlier words, were well received by the priests, sources say.
Before the ceremony in the Cathedral, some 30 diocesan priests gathered at the chapel of Bishop’s House adjacent to the cathedral to witness the reading of his appointment by the Pope and his profession of faith, UCA News reported.
He is now a bishop of the Catholic Church in Shanghai which is composed of two communities - one “open’ and recognized by the Government, the other ‘underground’ and not recognized. All together it has more than 100 priests and 150,000 Catholics.
With this ordination Shanghai now has four Catholic bishops - Aloysius Jin Luxian, Thaddeus Ma Daqin, Joseph Xing Wenzhi and Joseph Fan Zhongliang. All are in communion with the Holy See. Bishop Fan 94, however, is head of the ‘underground’ Church community and so not recognized by the Government; he has been ill for some time and has lived under surveillance for many years.
The Holy See considers Fan as the ordinary of the diocese and Jin as the coadjutor. Aware of this complex situation, Ma in his speech said he was “ordained as an auxiliary” bishop, even though the government and ‘open’ Church community consider he was ordained coadjutor. In actual fact, many in Rome recognize that Ma will succeed Jin.