A retired bishop in Hong Kong protested religious suppression in mainland China after Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin was harassed when he decided to leave the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association (CPA).
Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun was joined outside the Chinese Liaison Office on July 11 by a dozen members of the diocesan Justice and Peace Commission (JPC). Zen was also protesting the ordination of bishop Joseph Yue Fusheng, which took place in Harbin without the Vatican’s sanction.
Zen, who remained silent during the protest, had earlier praised Ma’s bravery. “It is good that a bishop stays to do the duty of a bishop, not that of a government official,” he said.
When Bishop Ma declared during his July 7 ordination that he would quit the CPA, he was taken away by unidentified people and remained absent from his a scheduled mass on July 8. He was said to be “on retreat” at a seminary.
The protesters urged the Chinese government to set Ma free and not force him to join the CPA. Ma was the vice-chair of the Shanghai CPA and a member of the standing committee of the national CPA.
In addition to protesting Ma’s situation, the JPC demanded an end to the practice of ordaining bishops without papal mandate.
The Vatican issued a statement on July 10, its second in less than ten days, to declare Yue’s excommunication. It called upon Catholics in China “to defend and safeguard that which pertains to the doctrine and tradition of the church” amid the present difficulties.
In response, a spokesperson for the CPA and the Chinese Catholic Bishops’ Conference, neither of which is recognized by the Vatican, said on 11 July that the statement “does no good for the unity and communion of the church in China, nor its healthy development.” It said Ma’s ordination was under investigation, as it seemed to have violated the relevant regulations.
The Shanghai diocese issued a notice on July 11 on its website calling for people “to reject the rumors,” saying Ma was not under house arrest. The notice did not refer to him as a bishop.