China’s state-run Catholic church has stripped a bishop of his title after he dramatically split with official religious authorities.
Thaddeus Ma Daqin announced his split from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) on Tuesday during his own ordination as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai which had been approved by Pope Benedict XVI in July.
“Yes, he has been removed,” the spokesman told the AFP news agency, without giving further details.
According to Catholic websites, Ma has not been seen in public since and is reportedly under house arrest.
A spokesman from the CPCA Shanghai diocese, who refused to give his name, confirmed that Ma had been dismissed from the post.
Ma said at his ordination he could no longer remain a member of the CPCA, drawing loud applause from the assembly, according to a video posted online.
The state-backed church placed Ma under investigation for “serious violations” of rules following the ceremony.
China and the Vatican severed diplomatic ties in 1951 after the latter recognised the Nationalist Chinese government in Taipei, a rival to the communist regime in Beijing.
Rome, which approved the appointment of Ma, does not recognise the CPCA, which in turn rejects the Pope’s authority. Both claim the exclusive right to appoint bishops.
Although Beijing and the Vatican have improved relations in recent years as the Chinese Catholic population has grown, they remain at odds over which side has the authority to ordain priests.
Relations suffered a setback in 2010 with the consecration of the first Chinese bishop for almost five years without the approval of Rome.
About 5.7 million Chinese belong to the state-run Catholic church, according to official figures.
Independent estimates say 12 million Chinese Catholics worship in unauthorised churches and are loyal to the pope.