Chinese bishop's Weibo account blocked, movement restricted

Authorities pull plug over 'concern at 50,000 netizens using prelate's social media for daily prayers'

By reporters in Hong Kong and Bangkok

Chinese authorities have slapped fresh restrictions on Shanghai Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin.

The bishop who is under house arrest, has had his popular social media Weibo account shuttered and was refused permission last week to attend a commemorative Mass for predecessor Bishop Aloysius (Louis) Jin Luxian.

Ma, who controversially, stepped down from the official state-run Catholic Patriotic Association after being ordained a bishop in 2012, has been confined in Sheshan Seminary ever since.

Up until March he was permitted to post articles on his blog and post prayers on Weibo, an equivalent to Twitter, to lead some 50,000 followers in prayer each day.

On April 27, a memorial service for the late Coadjutor Bishop Jin of Shanghai was officiated by bishops from neighboring dioceses, however Ma, whose confinement had appeared to be being loosened, was barred from attending.

The Mass was held to mark the third anniversary of the death of Bishop Jin and the centenary of his birth.

It was presided by Bishop Joseph Shen Bin of Haimen at the Basilica of Our Lady of Sheshan on the outskirts of Shanghai.

Four other bishops and about 60 priests concelebrated the liturgy attended by more than 1,000 people.

The bishops, from Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, are all board members of Sheshan Seminary.

Bishop Jin died in 2012 after serving as the government-approved bishop of Shanghai from 1988.

He returned to Shanghai in 1982 after 27 years in various forms of detention to resume the job he had left in 1955 — rector of the diocesan seminary.

Asked later why he accepted both appointments (he was later confirmed by the Vatican as bishop) with all the supervision a communist government imposes, his response was simple: "Christianity has had three starts in China. I don't want it to need a fourth".

Always wary of government intrusion into the church, he accepted the Communist Party's totalitarian rule as a given.

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