The 96-year-old Chinese Catholic bishop described as the “most powerful above-ground bishop” (in contrast to the “underground” Catholic Church that follows the Vatican), Aloysius Jin Luxian, died on Saturday.

Jin spent almost three decades in detention for his faith, then led the state-run Catholic Church in Shanghai from 1985. Thaddeus Ma Daqin seemed destined to replace Jin, but in Dec 2012 Ma had his title as auxiliary bishop revoked after declaring publically at his ordination that he was leaving the state-run Church.

Witnesses claimed some Chinese bishops failed to attend Jin’s funeral on Monday, apparently in protest at the highly-politicised dispute over Jin’s successor, Ma, who remains apparently “on retreat”.