The Catholic Church in China continues to experience persecution with the indefinite closure of Shanghai’s two seminaries while the diocese’s new auxiliary bishop Ma Daqin is being confined at Sheshan. Let us pray for strength and perseverance for the Christian faithful in China.
Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian, head of the ‘open’ Church community in Shanghai, notified the two seminaries in the diocese, the Sheshan Major seminary and the Tailaiqiao Minor Seminary, that they cannot reopen for classes “until further notice” due to “the current situation”, without giving any further explanation. Sources believe he was simply communicating an instruction given by the government authorities.
Both seminaries are recognized by the government, and are part of the ‘open’ Church community. Sheshan is a regional seminary. In 1992 it had 120 students for the priesthood, but today it has only 46 seminarians – a historic low, reflecting a decline in vocations in this region.
Everyone in the diocese, however, priests and faithful alike, understood that Bishop Jin’s mention of “the current situation” was a direct reference to the dramatic and tense situation created in the diocese, and between the Catholic Church there and the government authorities in Shanghai and Beijing, following the announcement by Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin last July 7 that he was resigning from the positions of responsibility he had in the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association (CCPA). Bishop Ma said that henceforth he would not hold any other post in CCPA so as to devote himself fully to his pastoral ministry as a bishop. The CCPA was set up by the Communist government in the late 1950s to control the Catholic Church in mainland China. Pope Benedict XVI, in his 2007 Letter to the Catholics in Chinadeclared that this body was “incompatible” with Church doctrine.
Bishop Ma’s statement greatly upset the government authorities not only in Shanghai but also inBeijing. They saw it as the most serious challenge yet to the CCPA and its role in controlling the Church in China, and feared he had set a precedent that others could follow. That same evening of his ordination, they sent a group of unidentified men to take him away to an unknown destination. He was later taken to the seminary in Sheshan, and has been confined there ever since. He is deprived of freedom of movement and freedom of speech, and is even prevented from dressing as a bishop.
The courageous bishop remains confined in the seminary, where he spends his time praying, reading and reflecting in solitude. The staff and students are still on holiday and do not know when they can return. Clearly the postponement of the seminaries’ opening is directly linked to the fact that Bishop Ma is being confined at Sheshan seminary. It seems that the government authorities need more time to resolve his case without losing face, nationally or internationally.