A top clergyman in China’s state-run Catholic Church has been seized by communist authorities after resigning his post in the state church and returning to the Vatican fold.
Auxiliary Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin withdrew from the regime’s Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association after it held unsanctioned ordinations of government-approved clergy, including excommunicated Bishop Yue Fusheng on July 7. His public objections to the ceremonies earned him praise from the Vatican and scorn from members of the communist party, who promptly hauled him away, according to ChinaAid, a Christian non-profit group seeking to expose the regime.
"He was taken away by the authorities and has disappeared. He was reportedly being detained at Sheshan monastery outside Shanghai of which he is a member," the group said in a release.
The Vatican is calling on the government to release the bishop, whom the Vatican called "commendable and encouraging."
Atheism is the official religion of the regime, though the government allows religious groups to practice, so long as they toe the party line.
Like the "two committees" of the Chinese Christian Council and the Three-self Patriotic Movement, China’s Catholic Patriotic "one association and one conference" has been indoctrinated by Beijing Theology—a heresy whose central doctrine is patriotism—as the church’s supreme faith principle.
China has cracked down on activists in recent months, including Chen Guangcheng, a blind activist who publicly opposed the nation’s forced abortion policies. ChinaAid founder Bob Fu was instrumental in rescuing Guangcheng after the State Department refused to give him safe passage to the U.S. Fu reached the activist by cellphone while attending a congressional committee meeting so lawmakers could hear for themselves the jailed activist’s plight.
Fu hopes the international community can once again pressure the government to free another prisoner of conscience.
"This incident makes clear to the world that the ‘three-self’ principle advocated by China’s official church is a fraud because even wholly religious activities of the clergy and church must be approved by the government; otherwise, they will be punished," he said. "We are deeply concerned about the continuing deterioration in the relationship between China and the Vatican."