The bishop who stood up to China

by
April 1, 2014

SHANGHAI | It was shaping as a win in the Communist Party’s quest to contain a longtime nemesis, the Roman Catholic Church.

In July 2012, a priest named Thaddeus Ma Daqin was to be ordained auxiliary bishop of Shanghai. The Communist body that has governed the church for six decades had angered the Holy See by appointing bishops without Vatican approval. Known as the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, it was now about to install Ma, one of its own officials, as deputy in China’s largest Catholic diocese.

“The anticipation was he would be a yes man,” says Jim Mulroney, a priest and editor of the Hong Kong-based Sunday Examiner, a Catholic newspaper.

Instead, standing before a thousand Catholics and government officials at Saint Ignatius Cathedral, Ma spurned the party: It wouldn’t be “convenient” for him to remain in the Patriotic Association, he said. Many in the crowd erupted into thunderous applause. People wept. Ma had switched sides – and a crisis was under way.

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