HONG KONG –– Hong Kong’s cardinals kept a new Shanghai bishop in the media spotlight as Chinese authorities kept up the pressure on him.
“Dialogue between China and the Vatican is a must. It is very urgent now to resolve the dramatic case of Bishop (Thaddeus) Ma Daqin,” Cardinal John Tong Hon told the Asian Catholic news agency UCA News. “Only with dialogue will a ‘win-win’ result eventually be achieved.”
Twice in one week, Cardinal Joseph Zen Ze-kiun, retired bishop of Hong Kong, joined local Catholics at prayer services for Bishop Ma outside Beijing’s Liaison Office in Hong Kong.
Bishop Ma, who was approved by the Vatican and government authorities, was ordained July 7 and promptly announced he was giving up his positions in the government-sanctioned Catholic Patriotic Association, which is not recognized by the Vatican.
He has since reportedly been confined to the compound of Shanghai’s Sheshan seminary and prohibited from assuming his duties as bishop.
UCA News reported that seven priests and two nuns in the Shanghai Diocese have been summoned by municipal government officials.
“They each face long interrogations, up to eight hours a day,” a church source told UCA News. “They cannot eat and rest well. We worry about their mental and physical health.”
Cardinal Tong said Bishop Ma’s ordination united China’s two Catholic communities: Those whose leaders have registered with the government and those whose leaders have not.
“I appreciated Bishop Ma’s courage,” Cardinal Tong told UCA News.
Cardinal Tong also spoke of the illicit ordination of Fr. Joseph Yue Fusheng, who was ordained bishop of Harbin without papal mandate.
“Illicit bishops have become isolated as Catholics are staying away from them. There is no point in proceeding with illicit ordinations,” Cardinal Tong said.
“We also heard that in Chinese ordinations, some participating bishops were rewarded with money and other goods. It seems to me that this amounts to cases of corruption.”
In recent years, because of government requirements, the priests, nuns and laypeople of Chinese dioceses have elected their new bishops, and most of those elected have applied to the Holy See for approval. Fr. Yue was ordained without Vatican approval, and the Vatican said he automatically incurred excommunication.
The Vatican said that those bishops who took part in the July 6 ordination had “exposed themselves to the sanctions laid down by the law of the church,” which entail automatic excommunication.
Bishops’ ordinations that are not authorized by the pope generally bring the penalty of automatic excommunication; however, because in some cases there may be mitigating circumstances – including fear of reprisal, necessity or serious inconvenience – those bishops in attendance “must give an account to the Holy See of their participation in that religious ceremony,” the Vatican said.