Pope prays for rebel Chinese bishop under house arrest

A monument of Mary holding the infant baby Jesus on top of the main cathedral of the Sheshan Catholic Church in Shanghai. Bishop Ma is under house arrest at Sheshan seminary.Aly Song/China

The Pope is personally following the fate of Chinese Bishop Thaddeus Ma Daqin of Shanghai in China, according to the Vatican.

Bishop Ma, who has been under house arrest since he rejected the Chinese state church at his ordination in 2012, apparently wrote a blog in June that suggested he had reversed his position. However, there have been suggestions he was not personally author of the post put online in his name.

Vatican spokesman Father Frederico Lombardi said Pope Francis prays for Chinese Catholics every day and has had no direct contact with Bishop Ma, the Catholic Herald reported.

Unusually, his ordination in 2012 was approved by the Pope at the time, Benedict XVI, and the Chinese government. But he was placed under house arrest and his appointment rescinded when he said he wanted to focus on pastoral work and evangelisation so could no longer hold a position in the Chinese government's Catholic Patriot Association.

His predecessor Bishop Aloysius Jin Luxian died in 2014, aged 96. Currently Shanghai does not have a Catholic bishop.

Father Lombardi said: "The personal and ecclesial life of Msgr Ma Daqin, like that of all Chinese Catholics, is followed with particular care and concern by the Holy Father, who remembers them daily in prayer."

In his blog in June,  Bishop Ma ostensibly wrote: "For a certain time, I have been deceived by others and made certain wrong words and deeds about the Chinese Catholic Patriotic Association."

An underground Catholic Church operates separately from the state Church and answers only to the Pope. In his original public statement at his ordination, which caused some people to start crying and others to applaud, Bishop Ma accused the Chinese state Church of defying the Vatican.