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Downgraded bishop takes back his old jobs

SHANGHAI (UCAN): Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin, who has been under house arrest in Sheshen Seminary near Shanghai since he called the bluff of the government at his ordination in July 2012, has taken up two jobs in the same Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association that he quit.

Bishop Ma accepted the two positions as a member of the standing committee in the Patriotic Association of Shanghai at a joint meeting of the association and the Church Affairs Commission of Shanghai on January 20.

But a copy of the agenda shows that he was addressed during the meeting as Father Ma Daqin and not as a bishop.

A priest in Shanghai, who asked not to be named, confirmed the details of the meeting.

Bishop Ma was readmitted as vice director of the association of Songjiang district in the southwest of the city last September.

In 2012, Bishop Ma dramatically quit his posts, which resulted in the authorities stripping him of his bishop’s status and placing him under house arrest.

His resignation from the association won him respect from many people and the unofficial community in Shanghai expressed its willingness to stay in communion with the official community.

However, Bishop Ma caused a stir when he posted an article online on June 12 last year in which he openly recanted his 2012 declaration to quit the Patriotic Association. He also sang the praises of the organisation, which is used by the government to exercise state supervision over Catholics in mainland China.

Some people at that time did not believe he wrote the article voluntarily, while others speculated that he acted under Vatican instruction.

The Vatican asked the media not to speculate on the presumed influence the Holy See may have had on Bishop Ma’s message.

In reaction to his recant, the unofficial community largely retracted its support for Bishop Ma, calling his act an appeasement. It has since stopped mentioning him in the Eucharist prayer at Mass.

It is a liturgical requirement to pray for both the pope and the local bishop at Mass.

The Patriotic Association is shunned by many of the estimated 10 million Catholics in China and has been accused of corruption.

However, the priest in Shanghai said he did not think that taking up the two posts in the government bodies means that he is no longer under house arrest.

“He is still living at Sheshan Seminary,” the priest said.

Bishop Ma’s house arrest is believed to be relatively relaxed, as he is able to send out daily prayer reflections via his WeChat social-media account, meet with people and attend official meetings.

At a seminar on June 28 to mark 100 years since the birth of his predecessor, the late Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, Bishop Ma made a brief appearance in a 10-second video clip.

A man calling himself Joseph said that he believes the Communist Party is playing a few tricks to fool people into thinking that Bishop Ma is enjoying a good amount of freedom.

“Don’t believe that he is free,” he warned.

This latest development in Bishop Ma’s situation comes at a time when Beijing and the Vatican have been conducting clandestine talks about the appointment of bishops in the country.

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