China government church strips bishop of title

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China's state-run Catholic church has stripped a bishop of his title after he dramatically split with official religious authorities, a spokesman for the organisation said Tuesday.

Thaddeus Ma Daqin announced his split from the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association (CPCA) during his own ordination as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai -- which had been approved by Pope Benedict XVI -- in July.

He has not been seen in public since and is reportedly under house arrest, according to Catholic websites.

A spokesman from the CPCA Shanghai diocese, who refused to give his name, confirmed that Ma had been dismissed from the post.

"Yes, he has been removed," the spokesman told AFP, without giving further details.

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.

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.

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.