Millions of yuan missing from the Shanghai diocese are thought to have been moved from its reserves under instructions from officials of the Communist Government’s Religious Affairs Bureau.
UCANews reported last week that Catholic sources, who must remain anonymous, claim the funds were transferred to government and private accounts. The sources suggest that the Shanghai transactions are part of a larger countrywide invasion of church accounts, estimated at 90 million yuan (£9 million) over a number of years.
With Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai under house arrest for the past three years, after he renounced his membership of the official Patriotic Church (the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association, CCPA) at his ordination, the Government has used weak diocesan leadership as an opportunity to deepen control of Shanghai Diocese.
Last month saw the latest government-controlled “reeducation classes” for diocesan priests and nuns. Vatican-approved Bishop Ma has lived at the local Sheshan seminary since his ordination in July 2012. Shanghai is an affluent diocese with diocesan affairs run by a management team comprising CCPA officials who are close to the Religious Affairs Bureau.
Meanwhile, two official church bodies in Zhejiang including the CCPA have issued a joint report demanding that authorities stop removing crosses on Catholic Churches. A dozen leaders of the provincial CCPA along with the Church Affairs Commission described the removals, affecting around 1,100 churches over the past two years, as an “evil act” that has made Catholics “very angry”. However, some locals claim the report is simply “a gesture” aimed at appeasing Catholics. The latest incidents saw two Catholic churches in Hangzhou have their crosses removed on 9 July.